Rovers travel to Merseyside for the first time this season to face Everton, in what is becoming an annual early meeting between these two clubs.
Last season Rovers visited Everton twice with drastically differing fortunes. First of all there was the F. A. Cup mauling of the Toffees but that was followed by Everton restoring parity through a single Andy Johnson goal.
So what will be expected this time round? Well the match and result will have a closer resemblance to the 1-0 Everton win than the 4-1 Rovers win. That isn`t to say I am condemning Rovers to defeat here against David Moyes` impressive outfit.
It is a well reported fact both sides are very similar in terms of style of play, so rest assured there will be no heckling for police officers to lock up our ‘violent` players upon the final whistle.
For Rovers to come away with anything, and a draw today would represent a very good result, Mikel Arteta needs to be shackled. He has great ability to pull the strings and he was the man who stretched and contorted Tottenham Hotspur a little over a week ago.
It has almost been a full season since Rovers contested a 0 – 0 draw and I predict that run will continue here.
Rovers are enjoying a five game unbeaten run already this season and Everton, who sit comfortably near the top only lost for the first time last weekend away at Reading.
The winners and losers will be decided by set-pieces!
Everton defender Alan Stubbs: ‘Whatever we did wrong at Reading we will try to put right. The Reading result was a blip, we’re playing well enough to go into our next game confident of getting a result.
‘We’ve raised the bar on our own standards and it shows how far we’ve come that we were looking for nine points from our first three games.‘
Rovers boss Mark Hughes on strikers: ‘Matt Derbyshire wants a career in the Premier League. When you have a player as receptive to learning as he is, it’s a pleasure when he breaks into the first team.
‘The good thing for me is that whether in training or matches, all my strikers seem to be able to complement each other.‘
Rovers defender Stephen Warnock on the Everton clash: “ If you look at the general play of both Everton and ourselves we are similar. We are both physical teams who have the ability to get the ball down and play.
“But if we go to Goodison Park and get a result then we can go above them – that would be great.‘
Everton Team News:
Everton have a question mark over the fitness of Andy Johnson but it is expected that he will play. Unfortunately for Everton it doesn`t appear as though Yakubu, who is expected to complete his transfer from Middlesbrough, will be signed in time. There is also a delay over the paper-work for record signing Manuel Fernandes.
It has also been mooted that new left back, Leighton Baines could make his debut on Saturday. The young England defender has been struggling with a nknock early in his Everton career.
Everton from: Howard, Hibbert, Yobo, Stubbs, Lescott, Valente, Baines, Carsley, Arteta, Neville, Osman, Jagielka, Pienaar, McFadden, Johnson, Anichebe, Wessels.
Player to watch: Mikel Arteta
He pulls all the strings in midfield and has surpassed Tim Cahill as the clubs most valuable asset. He is given the freedom to play by being paired with a defensive minded midfielder and Rovers will need to monitor him closely. He has great vision and execution of passes and is weighing with goals. Set-piece could play a key role here.
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Captain Ryan Nelsen is suspended due to his unfortunate red card last weekend against Arsenal. This means either Zurab Khizanishvili or Andre Ooijer will come in to partner Chris Samba.
Mark Hughes is yet to decide which strike-force he will start with the weekend but I have a feeling Benni McCarthy and Roque Santa Cruz will be paired up for the first time.
Morten Gamst Pedersen should overcome a knock he acquired whilst on international duty.
Rovers from: Friedel, Brown, Enckelman, Ooijer, Samba, Warnock, Khizanishvili, Emerton, Mokoena, Tugay, Dunn, Bentley, Savage, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, Rigters, Roberts, Derbyshire, McCarthy, Gallagher, Olsson.
Player to watch: Matt Derbyshire
He netted one of his first goals against Everton and will prove hard to handle for Everton`s laborious defence. It is perhaps unlikely that he will start but could have a huge impact when included.
Match Facts & Stats
Rovers failed to find the net in this corresponding fixture for the first time last February, but have scored in all their 13 subsequent Premier League matches.
Whereas Rovers have let the opposition take the lead in both league games this season.
Rovers are one of only seven clubs still holding an unbeaten record in the Premier League. The others are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle and Portsmouth.
Victory here would give them seven points after three games and make it their best start to a Premier League season since 1997.
Everton have conceded one goal in each of their three league games to date.
The returning hero, David Dunn will be making his 150th league appearance in a Blackburn shirt. Whereas ageing maestro, Tugay will be participating the day after turning 37.
Mike Riley is the man in the middle on Saturday.
This will be a tight affair but an entertaining game nevertheless. However, with the solid unit that David Moyes has created at Everton it is hard to see anything more than a draw for Rovers. I fancy, with both teams being so evenly matched, that this will be the outcome.
Set-pieces will e the key. Arteta has a penchant for immaculate crossing and passing from a dead ball situation so David Bentley and Morten Gamst Pedersen will have to improve theirs.
Everton to take the lead and Rovers to battle back for a 1 – 1 draw.
MyPa 47 are in town next for Rovers on Thursday as we hope the boys secure European football.