Man City .v. Rovers
20th January 2007
Saturday`s tea time kick-off sees two of the Premier League`s form teams come together. Rovers make the short trip across Lancashire to take on Stuart Pearce`s Manchester City who remain unbeaten in their last four outings.
Tradition has this fixture ending in a draw, tradition that was broken by Rovers earlier in the season following their 4-2 victory at Ewood Park.
However, the last five meetings between the sides at Man City have ended in draws.
If Rovers are to break another long standing pattern then they will need to exploit Man City`s frailty from indirect free-kicks and with Morten Gamst Pedersen in the side and bang in form there is every chance of Rovers making the most of City`s weakness.
Stuart Pearce`s side are also weakened through the absence of Joey Barton, their mercurial midfield talent, whose career transformation has had critics waxing lyrical.
There will be no place for two Rovers who have been heavily embroiled in transfer talk this week. David Dunn isn`t match fit and Lucas Neill has been left behind after agreeing a contract with West Ham.
Man City boss Stuart Pearce praises striker Darius Vassell: "He's in the side to score but he brings so much more to the team. He never gives defenders any time to rest on the ball, and they know he tackles as hard as Micah Richards.
"He has strength and pace and the number of times he got in on goal against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup the other night was sensational."
Blackburn manager Mark Hughes contemplates the first of four road trips:
"It's not often that you face four away games back-to-back but that's what we're faced with. However, our away form is good at the moment and last time out at Everton we played exceptionally well. We're going to have to hit those levels again to get something at City, who are difficult to break down."
Manchester City Team News:
Man City are without influential midfielder Joey Barton, who serves a suspension. Hatem Trabelsi and Nedum Onuoha are also struggling with hamstring complaints.
Sun Jihai and Dietmar Hamann are on stand-by to replace the absentees. Pearce is also likely to start with Darius Vassell and Giorgios Samaras in attack.
Manchester City (from: Weaver, Richards, Sun, Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Onuoha, Trabelsi, Sinclair, Dabo, Hamann, Ireland, Vassell, Corradi, Isaksson, Samaras, Beasley, Johnson, Miller
Player to watch: Micah Richards
Micah Richards is improving in leaps and bounds this season and it would appear the sky is the limit for the young Englishman. At the age of 18 he has played for England and is valued at £20 million.
His aggressive and direct approach to the game will cause Gamst plenty of problems down the left. Gamst will have to be on top of his game to get the better of Richards and ultimately affect the game.
This will be the key battle, unless Richards is ushered into midfield.
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Lucas Neill has been banished from the squad and David Dunn isn`t yet match fit. Better news is that David Bentley is eligible to return after completing his one match ban.
Shabani Nonda is likely to replace Matt Derbyshire up front as he has returned to full fitness.
Rovers from: Friedel, Ooijer, Henchoz, Khizanishvili, Emerton, Bentley, Savage, Pedersen, Mokoena, Derbyshire, McCarthy, Tugay, Nonda, Brown, Todd, Gallagher, McEveley, Peter.
Player to watch: Morten Gamst Pedersen
Gamst is the key for Rovers this afternoon. He destroyed City earlier in the season with his free-kicks and whipped crosses. Rovers will be hoping for more of the same of the most in-form Rover at the moment.
Match Facts & Stats
The last five meetings at Man City have all ended in draws.
Rovers have only ever beaten City away once back in 1993, which was also the only time that the blue and white halves have completed a double over the blue half of Manchester.
There is a regular occurrence of own goals scored in this fixture. Two were scored in the fixture earlier in the season and an additional three have been scored in Premiership fixtures between the sides.
Rovers have conjured up seven away goals in their last two outings.
Phil Dowd is the match official for the game. He has produced two red cards this season, both at Ewood Park in the game between Rovers and Tottenham.
This game will return to the traditional Rovers v Man City games of old by ending up all square. Rovers` key to goals will come from set-pieces and City will look to exploit Rovers` lack of pace at the back. With City opening the scoring they will press for a second and in doing so will get caught out by a late equaliser. 1-1
Watford, Rovers` game in hand are next up away during midweek.