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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Blackburn Rovers vs. Portsmouth

Ewood Park

Sunday 23rd September 2007

15:00

Rovers v Portsmouth

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.

Vital Quotes:

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.

Ref Watch:

Chris Foy, who is yet to issue a red card, will take charge of his fourth game of the season.

Match Prediction:

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

Next Fixtures:

Away to Roy Keane`s Sunderland follows this tie next weekend.




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The Journalist

Writer: Roversman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Saturday September 22 2007

Time: 11:00PM

Your Comments

I think this is a winnable game as the preview suggests but it won't be easy. Portsmouth are a solid side with plenty of attacking flair. However, if the boys pick themselves up and prove they can bounce back and that Larissa was only blip then thee points will be earned.
roversman
Its an absolute must win, but wont be easy. Big games are needed from some of our stars to make up for the shocker on the weekend
sasman
will be a tough one, but our home record under sparky has been pretty good against pompey (3 out of 3). hopefully we'll make it 4 tomorrow!
martinr
Utaka is very quick, Utaka will definitely play
paultsmouth
Yeah we need the lads to come out of this over-hyped bubble they have allowed to materialise and put in a gritty and determined display. I am weary of the Utaka threat.
roversman
With all due respect, at Ewood-Park this is a must win game.
IsraeliRover
losing 1-nil, comon lads
sasman
pah!
martinr
Sweet revenge for the mauling we had last March.
storagematt
Its been coming, our away performances haven't really beared fruit for our efforts until now
paultsmouth
I think Ive have asked this before here on Vital Blackburn, but i forgot about it now i cant find the article if anyone answered it. Sorry, so here it is again. Of the 3 stars of the U-21 holland Euro winners, 2 of them are making it big at their new clubs. Babel-Pool and Drenthe-Madrid. When you signed Rigters i came on here and told you u signed a hell of a player, but i have been diappointed to see that he has not featured much for you. Is he injured or does Mark not fancy him?
gunnerkid107
Tbh, from wot we've seen of Rigters so far, he's no-where near the same class as either Babel or Drenthe. At the minute I'd reckon he's 5th in the pecking order behind Santa Cruz, Benni, Roberts & Derbyshire, so understandably, his chances thus far have been limited
KevDP4L
rigters is 1 for the future thats for sure, dissapointing loss, had high hopes for the game
sasman
we played ok but nothing special... some players looked weary time to give others a chance up front me reckon.
MikeyGamst
yeah, no rigters so far.. he had a run out in europe and looked lively, but sparky has a lot of options up front at the moment and it's difficult to juggle. i personally think we'll see him playing down the right if bently needs a break/picks up a knock. poor result for us today, but doesn't sound like we deserved much better!
martinr
Thanks. Its good to hear he has got to play some. Just wait hes gonna be great for you. Do u remember his goal against England in the semis? What a goal.
gunnerkid107
the overhead kick? what a peach! i really home he gets a look in.. but santa cruz, benni mccarthy, jason roberts and matt derbyshire make for some stiff competition on the front line..
martinr
have to say that in spite of the loss, you have to appreciate the longstanding genius of kanu!
martinr
Yeah you certainly do dude, he seems to have been around FOREVER but he can still fo the business can't he.
It was another disappointing Rovers performance, but lets give credit where due to our opponents as well, they came to do a job and they got this done.
Hughes Da Man
we've just got to put our hands up and accept it wasnt our day, and make sure the next day is... if that makes sense!?!?
MikeyGamst
Clear as mud dude lol! Seriously though I know what you meant.
Hughes Da Man
cool... was worried I confused everyone then!!! lol
MikeyGamst
I was never confused!
Hughes Da Man
 

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