When Joleon Lescott completed his protracted transfer to Manchester City in August, he knew he would face a greater scrutiny of his ability. A £22million (Dh132m) price tag and comparisons with the Premier League's best central defenders meant he was immediately burdened with pressure. With City failing to keep a clean sheet in eight games - since a 1-0 win at Portsmouth at the end of August - questions have been asked of the defence, with Lescott's performances particularly highlighted.
Mark Hughes, the City manager, accepts his backline can do better. So does Lescott, who has formed a new central pairing with Kolo Toure, following his arrival from Everton. "It's not just because people say things," he said. "I want to. I'm determined to play well and have a level of consistency for me and the club. They showed a lot of intent to get me here and I want to repay that. We are not doing what we want to do and that's to keep clean sheets. But the more you play, the more confident you get and the more understanding you have with the other players. We haven't kept a clean sheet for quite a few games, but we are focused on trying to do that."
It will be another exacting test for them at Birmingham today. Alex McLeish's men beat Sunderland last weekend and have seen Wigan and Fulham claim unexpected draws against City. Lescott, whose goal in the midweek 5-1 Carling Cup win against Scunthorpe was his second in successive games, added: "There's always pressure on us. The expectation is there from fans and the media who expect us to win every game. Everyone thinks we should be top of the league already."
The Birmingham match sees Lescott return to his home town. He grew up a fan of city rivals Aston Villa and on his last visit to St Andrew's 18 months ago he scored in Everton's 1-1 draw. He said: "I get a bit of banter when I play there. I've scored a few goals there so if I do that, I'm sure they will have something to say. "I grew up being a Villa fan, but as I got older, realised it's good for the city to have Birmingham in the Premier League too. The derbies are ferocious; the city comes to a standstill. It won't be easy, but we will go there fully focused and full of confidence."
firstname.lastname@example.org Birmingham v Man City, KO 8pm, Showsports 1 & 2