Date:Saturday August 18 2007
Sunday 19th August 2007
It seems like every preview at the moment is rolling out a red carpet for a grand event in the start of what is going to be a massive season for Rovers but the curtain raiser at Ewood needs no greater introduction than the one we will create.
Arsenal is back in town with their new-look style of football and bring a class of kids seemingly graduating into a solid and professional force.
Last season we enjoyed some thrilling matches against the fallen champions namely the 6-2 defeat at the Emirates, that could have gone either way at one point and the 1-0 F A Cup fourth round reply victory at Ewood.
Both sets of fans will be hoping for more of the same on Sunday and less of the ugly scenes that marred the league tie at Ewood last season.
Many have been quick to write off Arsenal this season, myself included, but they are surprising a few early on by becoming a more resolute and regimented unit, illuminated by flashes of brilliance that have become a pre-requisite to Arsenal`s style.
However, Rovers themselves have added that brilliance to their game with a number of match winners able to make and take chances. Last weekend`s opening day win is a fine case study for that as despite not dominating, Rovers still managed to win the match through two moments of class.
This has seen confidence rise in the Blackburn camp, aided by the slender, but comfortable win in Finland on Thursday against MyPa.
Arsenal themselves also come into the game on the strength of a European win on the continent following victory against Sparta Prague.
So we will see two solid sides clash on Sunday but expect fireworks because the match winners in both camps will be looking to shine.
Hughes on Arsenal`s change in dynamic: 'Thierry Henry was an outstanding player for them for many, many years and you always feared an Arsenal side with him in the line-up. But they have got other young players that can come to the fore and start to flourish and be the main guys for Arsenal for many years.
'If you look at the likes of van Persie who has been a thorn in our side in recent years, he is an outstanding talent and maybe it's time for him to step up to the mark and be the main man."
The only question marks hang over the fitness of Benni McCarthy. He missed the mid-week win and will once again be assessed closer to kick off. If he is deemed to be fit it will leave Hughes with an interesting choice to make; will he pick the in-form Roque Santa Cruz or Jason Roberts?
Rovers from: Friedel, Brown, Enckelman, Ooijer, Nelsen, Samba, Warnock, Khizanishvili, Emerton, Mokoena, Tugay, Dunn, Bentley, Savage, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, Rigters, Roberts, Derbyshire, McCarthy, Gallagher, Olsson.
When Arsenal are in town the talk is always of David Bentley. Well this time it is because of his sensational exclusion from the latest England squad. However, he always has a point to prove against his former employers but as yet hasn`t shone in a way he would have liked. I think he will be keen to amend that on Sunday.
Arsenal have been dealt a further blow this week with the news that midfielder Tomas Rosicky (knee) and winger Emmanuel Eboue (ankle) have joined Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Adebayor and Gilberto on the sidelines. On a brighter note, summer signing Eduardo da Silva could make his league debut after recovering from a minor ankle problem. However, due to the early success of Arsenal`s tactics employing Hleb behind van Persie, Wenger may decide to stick with that approach.
Arsenal from: Lehmann, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb, van Persie, Almunia, Eduardo, Bendtner, Walcott, Senderos, Traore, Hoyte, Song, Denilson.
It has to be Robin van Persie. He has an annoying knack of scoring goals against Rovers having bagged eight against Hughes`s men to date. He is explosive and elusive and appears to have matured considerably over the past year. He was on fire last season before his injury and has already grabbed a goal this season. Rovers will have to keep a tight focus on him.
Both sides have 100% records at the start of this campaign, winning all their games at both home and abroad.
Rovers are unbeaten in seven Premiership games whereas Arsenal are unbeaten in eight.
The Gunners were awarded 12 penalties in Premier League competition last season, and converted 10 of them. They have already opened their league account this term with a spot kick from Robin van Persie, at Fulham.
Rovers have not lost a first home league fixture since a 0-2 defeat by Spurs on 17 August 1996. Since then they've won four and drawn six of their opening matches at Ewood Park in both the Premier League and Football League.
Alan Wiley will officiate Sunday`s game. He refereed the first game of this new season between Sunderland and Tottenham.
This will be a tight affair but will surprisingly produce a number of goals. Both teams will be looking to remain resolute and Arsenal in particular will deploy their famous counter-attacking style spear-headed by Robin van Persie. However, I think that Rovers will have their tales up and that confidence will see them match Arsenal step for step. 2-2 with Bentley starring.
Away to in-form Everton next Saturday.
Date:Saturday August 18 2007
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