Blackburn Rovers v Stoke City Preview

  • Any Stoke fans hoping for an easy ride with the visit to second- bottom Blackburn, who havent won in twelve in the league and have suffered six straight defeats, would have been unhappily forced to reconsider their thoughts earlier this week with the sacking of Paul Ince and the subsequent appointment of former Bolton and Newcastle bo s Sam Allardyce. Despite Blackburns woeful run of form of late, teams always put in a good performance in the eagerne s to impre s a brand new manager, and the Potters will have to work very hard to gain the first Premier League away win that looked a distinct po sibility just a few days ago.54 year old Allardyce takes charge of Blackburn for the first time tomorrow It is eighteen years since the two clubs last met, and since that day, while Stoke have been floundering continuously between the second and third tiers of English football, Blackburn have been top flight regulars, their finest hour coming in the 1994/95 season when they fought off Manchester United to claim the premiership title. It is difficult to comment on Blackburns style of play, given the abject lack of it they have displayed while flopping to lo s after lo s in recent weeks, but we know what to expect from an Allardyce team. Pretty it aint, but very effective it can be, Big Sam will look to coax a battling and solid performance out of his new charges. With Allardyce and our very own Tony Pulis being two of the renowned masters of the root one game, expect little by the way of flair from tomorrows match. That being said, Blackburn do have a number of players capableof producing that special something that can win a match. Morten Gamst Pedersen is a desperately difficult to handle midfielder on his day (though hes had few good games recently) and Roque Santa Cruz, he may be bound for the Ewood Park exit in January is rated as one of the best centre forwards in the league, despite scoring just three times this term. Allardycehas a close to full strength squad to pick his first Rovers side from, with no new injury concerns, andVince Grella being the onlylikely absentee with a knee problem. Pulis has rather more ofa selection headache though, with Dave Kitson, Ryan Shawcro s, Salif Diao, Andrew Davies andskipper Andy Griffin all pushing for starting berths after recovering from knee, back, calf, knee and knee injuries respectively, while Rory Delap faces a late fitne s test on a shoulder injury and Liam Lawrence and Mamady Sidiberemain out, both with knee ligament damage.Dave Kitson, who may return from injury, will look to recapture the form of his Reading days for Stoke With Blackburn looking like likely relegation candidates, a result tomorrow would be very useful, the appointment of Allardyce has put a dampener on the spirits of the 5,000 (It should have been 7,000) Stokies making the trip tomorrow as he looks to get hisreign off to the best po sible start. If Blackburn are still hungover from recent performances, we have every chance of gaining at least one point, if not all three tomorrow, and given our recent record of grinding out decent results against our fellow bottom half sides, Ill predict a 1-1 draw for this one.Blackburn Squad:Goalkeepers:Paul Robinson (29), Jason Brown (26), Frank Fielding (20), Mark Bunn (24), Bjorn Bu sman (17)Defenders:Stephen Warnock (27), Christopher Samba (24), Andre Oojer (34), Ryan Nelsen (31), Zurab Khizanishvili (27), Danny Simpson (21), Martin Ol son (20), Tony Kane (21)Midfielders:Tugay (38), Brett Emerton (29), Morten Gamst Pedersen (27), Vince Grella (29), Aaron Mokoena(28), Keith Andrews (28), Carlos Villanueva (22), David Dunn (28), Johann Vogel(31), Sergio Peter (22), Keith Treacy (20), Alan Judge (20), Bray Hodge (21), Alex Marrow (18), Aaron Doran (17), Andy Haworth (20)Forwards:Roque Santa Cruz (27), Benni McCarthy (31), Robbie Fowler (33), Matt Derbyshire (22), Jason Robets (30), Julio Santa Cruz (18), Marcus Marshall (19)Star Man: Roque Santa CruzThe 27 year old Paraguay international forward joined the Lancashire club from German giants FC Bayern for 3.5 millionin the summer of 2007 and proved to be an instant hit. He scored 23 goals in an impre sive first season with the club and has a goalscoring record of just under one goal in every two games in English football, totalling 27 strikes in 59 appearances. He has also been capped 61 times for his country, scoring an impre sivetwenty goals. He has been linked with a big-money move away from Ewood Park with Blackburn struggling though, with clubs such as Manchester City said to be interested, although he did sign a new four year deal at the club in August. His younger brother Julio also plays for Blackburn.Key Clashes:Christopher Samba v Ricardo FullerIt is fair to say that Jamaican international Fuller has not been on form over the last few matches, with the exception of his fantastic half hour at Newcastle. He will have to be at his very best though to get much change out of 66 French centre back Samba. Fullers efforts will be even more important to Stoke than usual in the absence of Mamady Sidibe. Tugay v Amdy FayeAged 38, and looking every day of it, Tugay is enjoying an Indian Summer to his career, putting in some impre sive performances recently, and winning the Blackburn Player of the Month for November on this site. Faye, seven yearsthe Turks junior,was very good against Fulham last week and will hope to continue this way tomorrow. With both players on form this should be an interesting head-to-head. Comparative Club Stats: Blackburn StokeLeague Position:19th13thGames Played: 2121Goals Scored: 2724Goals Conceded:4132Home Record: (W,D,L)3,2,5 6,3,3Away Record: (W,D,L) 3,2,6 1,3,5Form: LLLLLL

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