Date:Friday February 16 2007
17th February 2007
Well it was tagged the decisive week by many Rovers fans and so far it is played two and lost two, not a great return. Rovers will be eager to avoid a number of hat-tricks at the weekend by beating Arsene Wenger`s Arsenal.
Defeat will make it three in a row in a week, three against Arsenal this season and three on the trot against the Gunners in F. A. Cup games.
The loss at Everton last Saturday saw an under-par display combined with fatigue and injuries. The defeat in Germany isn`t as bad as it may sound as Rovers still have every chance of progressing next week. However, we round the week off with the F. A. Cup and Rovers in desperate need of some luck and a positive result.
Since the turn of the year Rovers have been hit by a storm of injuries that appears unrelenting. Top goal-scorer, Benni McCarthy and the talismanic Tugay are both added to the doctor`s surgery, which now has more Rovers than your average second hand car lot.
Just what you need for a journey to the Emirates, the scene of Rovers worst ever Premiership defeat. Even before a ball has been kicked this cup-tie, live on BBC One, looks like a fore-gone conclusion. In fact if Rovers were to overturn Arsenal on Saturday, it would provide a bigger shock than if Norwich dumped Chelsea out.
Wow, aren`t I the pessimist all of a sudden but it is hard to see beyond Arsenal. Coupled with our horrendous injury list, Arsenal`s form is top-notch. Granted they made hard work of beating Bolton, and they really did, but at times they should just what they are capable of. Their football this season has been awesome at times, albeit lacking that killer edge; the same edge they had against Rovers!
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "The fatigue factor is important, we didn't wish to play extra-time but as long as you win, you hope you can recover. At the moment we have an execptional mental strength. How responded in extra-time, we did it in a great way. But I will change a few players against Blackburn, that's for sure."
Mark Hughes on Arsene Wenger and Arsenal: "Arsene Wenger is certainly getting it right at the moment. Whichever team he picks seems to have the quality and the drive that he is looking for. It is very difficult to beat Arsenal at the moment.
"He has got a magnificent record and he is developing young talent as well. Everybody enjoys watching Arsenal and the type of football they play. Arsene really has done an exceptional job."
David Bentley on Rovers` chances: "To beat Arsenal at the Emirates would be brilliant, to beat them in the FA Cup would be even better. I spent a lot of time in the youth and reserves there, and I've added to what I've learned while I've been at Blackburn. We lost 6-2 to them in the league, but hopefully that defeat will have the right effect, now I want to go out there and put it right."
The big news for Arsenal is that William Gallas returns having been out of the side since November. He should take his place in the starting eleven along with Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas, both of whom were rested in mid-week.
Jens Lehman, also rested in mid-week is likely to continue on the bench as Wenger prefers Almunia for the cup games. Johan Djourou and Aleksander Hleb are both out.
Arsenal from: Almunia, Toure, Clichy, Gallas, Senderos, Denilson, Rosicky, Fabregas, Ljungberg, Henry, Adebayor, Aliadiere, Hoyte, Walcott, Gilberto, Eboue, Diaby, Baptista, Poom.
It is hard to choose just one when there are so many talented individuals capable of turning the game in Arsenal`s favour but Rosicky has finally settled in the Premiership and is looking a class act at the moment.
He is a little magician on the ball and is always available for team-mates. He isn`t afraid to shoot from distance and he has the eye for the killer through ball. When Little Mozart is in tune chances are his orchestra will be too!
Soon enough there won`t be any players to report on in the team news section, such is the luck of Rovers of late. Alas, with McCarthy`s absence, there is an outside chance that Matt Derbyshire could return. He joined up with the squad on Thursday for full training.
David Dunn is also making good progress and is likely to keep his place but in his preferred central position due to Tugay`s absence. This should see a chance for Sergio Peter who looked lively again on Wednesday night.
Chris Samba and Bruno Berner are back in the squad too having been ineligible for the UEFA Cup tie.
Rovers from: Friedel, Emerton, Henchoz, Khizanishvili, Todd, Dunn, Warnock, Bentley, Mokoena, Nelsen, Roberts, Nonda, Jeffers, Brown, Derbyshire, Samba, Berner, Gallagher, Peter.
This guy is in top form and was once again Rovers stand out player in mid-week. He will feel he has a point to prove when facing Arsenal and that will drive him on to another creative and determined display.
Hughes will be looking for his creativity from wide right, or in the centre depending on injuries, to unlock the Arsenal defence. Chances will be at a premium at the Emirates and most will be generated through his vision.
Click on the links below to see the last time the two sides met and Rovers unforgettable debut at the Emirates.
View the highlights of Rovers` last visit to the Emirates.
View Rovers` last game against Arsenal here.
Rovers and Arsenal have met in the F. A. Cup six times previous with Arsenal claiming four wins to Rovers two.
Rovers last knocked Arsenal out of the Cup in 1966, not the years most famous accolade!
The last time the two teams met in the F. A. Cup was in the 2004-2005 semi-final when Rovers were given the elbow thanks to two goals from Robin van Persie in a 3-0 defeat.
Martin Atkinson is the referee of this fifth round cup clash. It will be the third time he referees a Rovers match having previously taken charge of two Rovers victories. He has produced 50 yellow cards in 16 matches at a ratio of 3.125 per game. He has also issued two reds.
This will be an incredibly tough game for Rovers, especially considering the week they have had. Two defeats will have severely knocked morale as will a worsening injury list. No McCarthy in attack is worrying, as is the absence of Tugay. Hughes will be tempted to field a 4-5-1 formation in a bid to stifle Arsene`s young guns, however, a draw is the last thing Hughes wants. Also, more attention will be focused on the second leg against Leverkusen on Thursday. With those factors, doubled up with the red-hot form of Arsenal will mean we will have to wait a while longer to lift the Cup. 3-1 Arsenal Mark Lawrenson is, predictably, betting against Rovers, backing a 2-0 win for Arsenal. Do you agree or disagree?
Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday at Ewood Park
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Date:Friday February 16 2007
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