Birmingham, UKBirmingham's National Indoor Arena has become something of a mecca for indoor distance running over the years, and despite the withdrawal of Vivian Cheruiyot, distance races will be to the fore again on Saturday at the penultimate IAAF indoor permit meeting of 2012.
But with strong line-ups in the sprints and two intriguing head-to-heads in the hurdles, the multi-lappers won't have the limelight all to themselves. The 60m races feature the current world leaders, with Asafa Powell also going in the men's, while Dayron Robles takes on Liu Xiang in the men's hurdles and Jessica Ennis tests herself against Danielle Carruthers in the women's.
But first the distance events.
Cheruiyot was due to make her only indoor appearance of the season over 3000m against the world leader Meseret Defar but the double world outdoor champion decided not to travel from Kenya because of flu.
Defar, Melkamu and Burka lead Ethiopian charge
That leaves Defar to take on Cheruiyot's compatriot Helen Obiri plus fellow Ethiopian's Meselch Melkamu and Gelete Burka. Defar clocked 8:33.57 in Boston two weeks ago but the target this time will be the brilliant stadium record of 8:30.26 set by Sentayehu Ejigu 12 months' ago in what was the performance of the day.
One of those pulled along in Ejigu's wake was Helen Clitheroe, the Briton who went on to win the European indoor title in Paris. The 38-year-old is in the field again determined to lower the personal best she ran that day of 8:39.81. She has 8:45.59 to her name so far this year from Glasgow where she was second behind Obiri.
The 2011 meeting provided another Briton with a glimpse of things to come as Mo Farah broke the British and European 5000m record en route to retaining his European indoor 3000m crown and, later, winning the world 5000m title in Daegu.
Farah aiming at 3000m UK record
Farah also broke the British 3000m record on this track in 2009 but this year he'll race over two miles chasing John Mayock's British record for the rarely run distance of 8:17.06.
Farah's opponent's include former world 5000m champion Eliud Kipchoge and his fellow Kenyan Gideon Gathimba, plus Ugandan Moses Kipsiro and Ethiopia's Tariku Bekele who's older brother Kenenisa clocked a world best for this event of 8:04.35 here in 2008.
Another young Ethiopian leads the women's 1500m field. Indeed, Genzebe Dibaba's superb victory over Obiri at the Weltklasse meeting in Karlsruhe last Sunday means she comes to Birmingham as the season's leading 1500m runner.
The 21-year-old ran 4:00.13 in Germany, more than three and a half seconds quicker than anyone else in 2012, which is good incentive for Hannah England to stick to her heels. Britain's world silver medallist outdoors claimed the UK 3000m title last weekend, but has called this her "big race" of the indoor season. Her own indoor PB of 4:07.13 was set last year and could well be erased.
After US record, Lagat back on track
The men's 1500m line-ups is one of the strongest of the lot, featuring Bernard Lagat, fresh from his American 5000m record at the Millrose Games last Saturday, the world number two Bethwel Birgen, another victor in Karlsruhe, plus fellow Kenyan Nixon Chepseba, the winner in Dusseldorf last week. There's also Augustine Choge, who defeated Derese Mekonnen in a thrilling race at this fixture last year. The Ethiopian's namesake Gebremedhin Mekonnen is in the field this time. The organisers have also put together two exceptional sprint fields.
Powell Vs Clarke and Liu Vs Robles
Powell set tongues wagging with a 5.64 50m in New York at the end of January and the powerful Jamaican will be keen to confirm he is a serious contender indoors when he takes on Lerone Clarke, the current world leader over 60m plus two other compatriots in Nesta Carter and Michael Frater.
Clarke is clearly in form after clocking 6.50 to beat Christophe Lemaitre in Liévin this week so Powell may have to lower his 2004 PB of 6.56 to claim the win.
American Trell Kimmons and the ever-willing Kim Collins head the non-Jamaican challengers, while Britain's Andrew Robertson will test himself against the world's elite after finishing second to Dwain Chambers at the UK championships.
Tiana Madison will be looking to confirm her form in the women's race after leaping to the top of the world rankings with 7.02 last weekend. The American, a world long jump champion back in 2005, faces Bianca Knight, who won here last year, Ivet Lalova of Bulgaria and Jamaican Aleen Bailey.
As for Robles and Xiang, it will be the first time the pair have faced each other since the World Championships in Daegu last summer, where Xiang took silver after Robles was disqualified, despite finishing first.
Robles currently trails Xiang 7-5 in head-to-head contests, and the Cuban is looking to level the score by the end of the World Indoors in Istanbul. Xiang is making his first appearance at the NIA since taking World Indoor bronze here in 2003 as a fresh-faced 19-year-old.
The line-up also includes American's Aries Merritt and Dexter Faulk, plus Britain's new young champion Andy Pozzi.
Ennis at the double, again!
Ennis comes to Birmingham buoyed by her double victory at the UK championships last weekend where she twice equalled her hurdles PB of 7.95. That exactly matches Carruthers' best this year, although the American, who won world outdoor silver in Daegu, has been improving with every race. Not that Ennis can't match her. She looked in great shape last week and will have the full force of the crowd behind her.
As she will in the long jump where she'll take on UK champion Shara Procter and USA's Brianna Glenn. There'll be high hopes for the home nation in the women's pole vault too where Holly Bleasdale is hoping to raise her British record another notch or two from the 4.87 she leapt last month.
The 20-year-old faces a quartet of Poles, headed by the experienced Monica Pyrek and Anna Rogowska, plus Germany's Kritstina Gadschiew.
One British favourite not competing is Jenny Meadows, who hasn't fully recovered from her Achilles trouble. Meadows was due to face USA's Morgan Uceny, Elisa Cusma of Italy and Kenya's Winny Chebet over four laps.
Marcin Lewandowski makes his season debut in the men's 800m. The European silver medallist in Paris last winter, Lewandowski broke the Polish 1500m record in Liévin this week where Adam Kszczot took the national 800m mark down another chunk to 1:44.57.
Lewandowski's opponents include Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia and Kenyans Boaz Lalang and Richard Kiplagat. In the men's high jump, world number three Robbie Grabarz faces Samson Oni, the man who beat him to the UK title last week, plus Andra Manson of USA.
In the long jump, South Africa's 2008 world indoor champion Godfrey Mokoena takes on Eusebio Caceres of Spain and UK champion JJ Jegede.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF