Date:Thursday December 27 2007
Eastlands City Of Manchester Stadium
27th December 2007
Fresh from the over indulgence of Christmas, and aided by the extra day of rest courtesy of Skysports (that ruined my Boxing Day) Rovers are back in action and looking desperately to end this horrendous slump we are in.
Alas, we do so at the home of a team unbeaten in their fortress all season. Eastlands has become a dreaded day out for travelling fans as Sven Goran-Eriksson`s Man City steam-roller anyone in brave enough to face his sky blue United Nations.
Rovers do currently hold an annoying control over City as they will see us as a boggy team considering it has been some time since they last beat us. Last season saw us complete a treble over them and we have already beaten them this season. Five straight wins over Citeh but a sixth looks likely to be the sternest challenge yet.
This is a new look Citeh that is organised and determined, spliced with flair and creativity with goal scoring threat from all over the park.
The fixture takes place during prime time pantomime season so who will be the villain and hero of this piece? The Rovers defence will certainly be fearful of any cries of, 'he`s behind you`!
Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson on a tough festive period: 'Many of them will not be used to the demands and I have told them to have Christmas Day to themselves.
'When you have five games in 15 days, you need to make sure that one of those other days is a rest day.
'We have got very big games coming up against Blackburn and Liverpool and it is important to be ready for those.'
Rovers boss Mark Hughes: 'Things have not gone as well over the past few games. We know what needs to be done and we are trying all we can to get our season back on track.
'We were all delighted with the way the campaign had started. We need a victory or two to settle us down, but then no-one has a divine right to win.'
Chris Samba on playing over Christmas: 'I cannot say it isn't difficult, but normally I would be on holiday right now. I would normally be with my family and friends, relaxing and not thinking about football, in fact I'd be watching English football on the television. Now I'm playing at Christmas, it is a big difference.
'But it is what I wanted, so I have to adapt myself to the rhythm of the Premier League. It is hard as day after day we play games, but it is what it is all about.'
Citeh will lose one midfielder and replace him with another. The excellent emerging talent of Michael Johnson will be subdued due to a stomach complaint so he could be replaced by the returning Stephen Ireland who was serving a three-match suspension (honestly)!
In attack, Eriksson has an abundance of options considering the recent scoring talent. Emile Mpenza is expected to shake off a knock but may have to settle for a place on the bench such is the good recent form of Italian outcast Rolando Bianchi.
Man City from:Hart, Isaksson, Corluka, Sun, Ohuoha, Richards, Dunne, Garrido, Ball, Hamann, Ireland, Fernandes, Johnson, Geovanni, Petrov, Elano, Bianchi, Vassell, Mpenza, Etuhu.
The boy from Brazil is a true wizard on the ball. He has an accurate finish, tremendous vision and an ease on the ball that is quite alluring and reminiscient of Zidane. He is key to most things City create.
A mini suspension crisis is sweeping through the Rovers defence. In the past six games all of Rovers customary back four will have served a suspension. Stephen Warnock is the latest so it is going to once again force Hughes to shake things up. Bruno Berner could come in or perhaps Martin Olsson to maintain the balance of the side. However, after Khizanishvili`s stirring display against Chelsea and Samba`s availability I predict Hughes will opt to play Brett Emerton at left back with Khizanishvili at right-back.
Also missing out is the lost soul of Robbie Savage. He too is suspended.
Rovers from: Friedel, Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Khizanishvili, Bentley, Dunn, Tugay, Reid, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, McCarthy, Roberts, Derbyshire, Mokoena, Berner, Olsson, Brown.
The reason I have chosen Steven is through no great reason other than that I can and it is the first time on Vital Blackburn he has been chosen as our key player. However, he is creeping back to fitness. I am looking forward to the first marauding run through defence or long distance rocket. Let us just hope they both arrive against City.
Howard takes charge of this match yet to issue a red card this season in his 13 games. However, there were two reds when the clubs met at Ewood Park earlier in the season. Tugay for Rovers and Richard Dunne for Man City.
It pains me to say this but this will be the day when Man City end Rovers grip over them with a comfortable home win. It is improbable to look beyond them in their current form and on the strength of our poor form. The teams couldn't be further apart in the confidence stakes so it wil be a stroll for City. 3-0
Derby County away presents Rovers with a whole new challenge on 30th December.
Date:Thursday December 27 2007
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