Rovers v Portsmouth
Sunday 23rd September 2007
Well the nightmare of Thursday is slowly starting to disappear but a good performance and result against Portsmouth on Sunday will be the perfect remedy to this current heartache.
Rovers are still very much in with a chance against Larissa but the focus must surely be 100% focused on Portsmouth`s visit to Blackburn. They are an accomplished team, who are physical and direct and have faired well in their opening exchanges, especially considering they have faced the 'Big Four` already.
Rovers remain one of only three Premiership sides unbeaten in the Premiership so far and with Liverpool and Arsenal maintaining that against Birmingham and Derby respectively, the pressure is on Rovers to keep pace.
This game, which is very much winnable, presents Rovers with the ideal platform to put on an exciting and attacking display, something that hasn`t really been seen yet this season due to the nature of the early fixtures.
Manchester City at home was the last time that Rovers could engage in an open and attacking display but that was soon marred by the red card given to Tugay.
Both teams are expected to be challenging for UEFA Cup places come the end of the season and are equally matched. Rovers do, however, have a slight psychological edge due to their impressive displays against Portsmouth in recent seasons.
Rovers boss Mark Hughes: 'We fully expect to improve over the weekend after losing our 15-game unbeaten run on Thursday in the Uefa Cup.
'In fairness to the players, they have been magnificent up until this point. It is a blip - that's all we feel it is. We'll get the game out of our system and concentrate on the weekend.'
Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp: 'We've actually got a tough programme right up until Christmas. After that it might get a bit easier.
'But I think we've done well. We took a point each off Manchester United and Liverpool and should have got something with our performance at Chelsea. It was only Arsenal who outplayed us, but they beat Spurs and Sevilla.'
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
It is well documented that Ryan Nelsen will be absent, not only for this game but what could turn out to be three to four weeks. Chris Samba, who missed the dismal display against Larissa could return following his head injury incurred because of his bravery against Chelsea.
Other than that, Mark Hughes has no other injury problems to contend with.
Rovers from: Friedel, Enckelman, Emerton, Samba, Ooijer, Warnock, Bentley, Dunn, Savage, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, McCarthy, Derbyshire, Roberts, Tugay, Mokoena, Rigters, Khizanishvili, Brown.
Player to watch: The Defence
All eyes will be on the defence, initially to see who starts at the back. Samba is likely to return but if he isn`t deemed fit enough then Zurab Khizanishvili could come in. Whoever, starts, it will be vital that a solid platform can be recreated in order to restore confidence in the defence so that it doesn`t infringe on the attack play.
Portsmouth Team News:
Harry Redknapp is likely to return to old tricks by re-shuffling his pack, which could include a reversal to the 4-4-2 formation instead of the 4-3-3 that was used so effectively against Liverpool.
This could see returns for Matty Tayor and Pedro Mendes, who has seemingly been out in the cold of late.
Portsmouth from: James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson, Utaka, Davis, Muntari, Diop, Taylor, Pedro Mendes, Kranjcar, Kanu, Benjani, Nugent, Pamarot, Traore, Hughes, Ashdown.
Player to watch: John Utaka
This lad is rapid and powerful and has shown a keen eye for goal with a couple of smartly taken finishes so far this season. Rovers don`t have the fastest of defences so will probably have to drop a little deeper to combat his pace. Alas, it is not certain that he will start, especially if Redknapp goes with Kanu to lead the line.
Match Facts & Stats
Rovers beat Portsmouth 3-0 last season courtesy of a brace from the departed Shabani Nonda and Stephen Warnock`s only goal for Rovers to date.
Mark Hughes has been celebrating three years in charge and ironically his first game was against Portsmouth, a game that Rovers won 1-0.
Portsmouth have not won on the road since Boxing Day 2006.
This is currently Rovers best start to a season since the 1997-1998 season; they went on to finish 6th in that campaign.
Chris Foy, who is yet to issue a red card, will take charge of his fourth game of the season.
This is an ideal tie for Rovers to return to winning ways and end their goal drought. It will be an attacking display and Rovers will go for the jugular from the off. Last season a goal in the first minute for Rovers set the tone, Hughes will be hoping for a similar start. If an early goal can be achieved by Rovers then a control over the game that will allow them to express themselves attackingly will ensure Rovers score plenty. However, Portsmouth won`t make things easy and a combative and congested midfield will be deployed to thwart any attacking incentives form the home side. Everything hinges on that opening goal. Rovers will get it. 3-1
Away to Roy Keane`s Sunderland follows this tie next weekend.