x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Portsmouth counting on cup magic

Every cloud has a silver lining. A familiar cliche, but one that Portsmouth are hoping will ring true for them in a competition that provides hope when there often seems none.

Every cloud has a silver lining. A familiar cliche, but one that Portsmouth are hoping will ring true for them in a competition that provides hope when there often seems none. A High Court hearing later this month will help make things clearer on their financial situation, but a nine-point penalty for entering into administration and relegation beckons for the Premier League's bottom club. Survival is the long-term target.

Yet if they can overcome Birmingham at Fratton Park today, they will have a place in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. You could not make it up. But, such is the magic of the cup, this scenario could become a reality. And the memories of their 2008 success - their first in 69 years - are still fresh in the minds of some of players. The goalkeeper David James was part of that triumph, which included a famous win at Manchester United at the same quarter-final stage.

"The idea of being able to get to Wembley at the moment is very alluring," he said. "If we can win something this year, it would be phenomenal. It would be right up there with the best achievements of my career - if not the best." That prize is pushing the players on during the recent turmoil and torment. But Birmingham are similarly driven. They have never won the FA Cup but have proved a match for most teams in the Premier League this season.

Roger Johnson, the central defender, was part of the Cardiff side beaten by Portsmouth two years ago at Wembley and said: "It will hurt forever. The medal says 'finalist', but it's no good to me. I want a winner's medal. Portsmouth have had a lot of players leave since that final, but it would still be nice to put them out along the way and go onto win it this time." Portsmouth v Birmingham, 4.30pm, Aljazeera Sport +3 and +5