Date:Monday February 11 2008
11th February 2008
On the back of three draws that extends our unbeaten run to seven league games a daunting trip to The Emirates awaits where Rovers and Arsenal can once again engage in another anticipated tempestuous affair.
The Blackburn versus Arsenal match has become a keenly contested spectacle over the past few years ever since Andy Todd`s infamous fore-arm smash in the face of Robin van Persie during the 2005 F.A. Cup semi-final.
Arsenal have generally come out on top in these games, none more-so than in the corresponding league fixture last season when Rovers were brave enough to battle Arsenal at their own game and were duly thumped 6-2; our heaviest ever Premiership defeat.
Therefore it came as no surprise that when we were last at the Emirates, we shut-up shop and played for the draw. Which is exactly what I anticipate will happen on Monday night.
Both sides contested a keenly fought and enthralling cup match at Ewood Park earlier in the season when Arsenal won in extra-time. With Rovers depleated considerably through the centre I can` see much attacking intent from Rovers. Alas, David Bentley will be keen to put in another display and add to his eight goals this season.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: 'We are where we want to be after 25 games and we are now going into the final sprint.
'We made a little difference last week by getting back to the top, but that is not significant enough to say we will be in front (at the end of the season.
'But I am confident this team has mental strength and desire - they are good ingredients to go on and continue to play well.'
Wenger on Bentley: "I knew there would be some stage where people said 'why did you let him go?' but when I make that kind of decision, I am then happy someone asks me that question because it means he has been a success elsewhere.
'It is sometimes difficult to let a player go when you know it is just a question of timing. But at the end of the day, you cannot keep everybody and it can come back to haunt you because Bentley is a great player now.
'He would play here now, whether he would be a regular or not, I don't know, but he has the quality."
Rovers boss Mark Hughes: 'We have caused them problems over the years but we'll have to work exceptionally hard because they are an outstanding team.
'They can get frustrated if you work hard and try to deny them their little passing movements.
'We've got to give ourselves the chance to win. It is up to us to make sure we don't make it too hard for ourselves.'
Hughes on defensive injury problems: "It has been difficult. We've had to make changes, we've had people suspended and injured and it hasn't been a settled defence.
'It is very hard to get an unbeaten run going when there are a lot of changes, certainly in the back four.
'But we've been able to do it for seven games. We are hoping it is going to be eight; it will be difficult but we'll be giving our best shot.'
The encouraging news for Rovers is that Robin van Persie, who has a fetish for scoring against Rovers, isn`t likely to be fit in time meaning Friedel and co only have to deal with Eduardo and Adebayor!
Mathieu Flamini is also struggling to be fit.
Arsenal from: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy, Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini, Diaby, Adebayor, Eduardo, Lehmann, Bendtner, Traore, Walcott, J Hoyte, Rosicky, Gilberto.
It would normally be Adebayor but Rovers have already seen first hand this season how dangerous he can be in front of goal. We just have to hope he is as wasteful as he was against our rivals Burnley in the cup some time back.
Mark Hughes, also has injury and suspension problems to deal with. Suspension rules Chris Samba, Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Dunn out.
There are also question marks over the fitness of Steven Reid and Andre Ooijer, potentially leaving Rovers very short of first-team players.
With a five man midfield likely, Matt Derbyshire could operate on the right, although who plays on the left is still open to much conjecture.
Rovers from: Friedel, Emerton, Ooijer, Khizanishvili, Warnock, Bentley, Reid, Derbyshire, Santa Cruz, McCarthy, Roberts, Berner, Olsson, Rigters, Treacy, Tugay, Brown, Mokoena.
It's not often we talk about Friedel as being our key player but he had better be prepared for a busy night. It's also testament to the quality Arsenal have that we are looking at new contract hero Brad as our main man. He has a record against Arsenal of putting in sterling displays and we will need him to stop everything if we are to escape with something.
This is the 100th meeting between Rovers and Arsenal.
The Gunners are pursuing a fifth successive home Premier League victory over Rovers. They've scored 12 goals in the last three, including last season's 6-2 drubbing.
Blackburn have not claimed three points against Arsenal in north London since their 1-2 triumph on 26 October 2002 when Gunners midfielder Edu scored for both sides and Dwight Yorke got the winner.
Steve Bennett is the man in the middle.
This won`t be a repeat of the 6-2 thriller,nor will it be as enthralling as the 3-2 Arsenal win earlier in the season as Rovers will play deep to neutralise Arsenal`s pace and will stock a midfield to help protect the back four and stem the flow of Arsenal attacks. This could create quite a frustrating game. Devoid of great pace, Rovers will have to be decisive in front of goal when chances are created. Arsenal will look to play their normal game as they are used to teams coming to the Emirates to defend and generally they break them open. Once again I can see them making the most of their chances especially with two quality and in-form strikers on show. 3-1 Arsenal I`m afraid to say guys.
Bolton are at Ewood next on 23rd Feb.
Date:Monday February 11 2008
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