Blackburn Rovers make the short trip across country to take on a Middlesbrough side who are aiming to dispel the unwanted ‘inconsistent` tag.
However, will the Rovers first team be able to deliver their first away League goal of the campaign and serve up a delicious attacking display or will they be starved of ammunition by Boro`s captain fantastic, Jonathon Woodgate?
Both sides sit in mid-table next to each other with five points a piece. Traditionally, if patterns prove to be continuous, Middlesbrough will take the three points here.
Over the past six seasons when these sides have met at the Riverside Stadium in the league victories have alternated between the home side and the away side. Rovers won last seasons game after Shefki Kuqi served up a delightful double. Rovers went on to complete a treble against Boro last season, even winning in the Cup at the Riverside.
Gareth Southgate will be going all out to buck this losing trend in a bid to over-shadow their mid-week embarrassment against the Leagues founding member who currently toil with life in League Two. Notts County left the Riverside with a one-nil victory against a depleted Boro side, which saw the debut of Robert Huth.
With both sides conceding an unhealthy amount of goals this season, a goalless draw doesn`t look likely. However, in order for Rovers to win they will have to reverse a number of unfavourable patterns.
Mark Hughes on the squad: “I`ve plenty of options right through the team, I`ve told the guys that this year I will probably use more players than I did last year. So it is important that the squad is ready to be utilised.“
Mark Hughes on Rovers start: “It`s very, very early. Five games is no reflection on how the league will actually shape up after 38 games. There was no real concern from our point of view. We knew we were in a false position and it was only a matter of time before we`d start climbing up the table.“
Gareth Southgate on mid-week: “We have to recover very quickly because Saturday`s game is very important to us and we will be judged on what we do in the league and we`re going to have to do very well in it now.“
Gareth Southgate on tactics: “It is still the intention to try to be positive. We have tried to play two wide players and attacking midfield players as well.
“I know we have played one striker of late, but we have shown in the past we can score goals playing that way, and that does not have to be a negative thing.“
Mark Viduka talking about mid-week: “I hope this doesn`t have a knock-on effect going into the Blackburn game this weekend. It`s going to take a bit of time as Gareth works what he wants to do but hopefully we can get a win this weekend.“
Middlesbrough Team News:
Gareth Southgate is once again likely to ring the changes by bringing back his rested stars after they were left out of the mid-week disappointment against Nott`s County. Jonathon Woodgate, Mark Schwarzer, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, James Morrison and Fabio Rochemback are all likely to return to the starting eleven.
Robert Huth is also pushing to be in contention after appearing against Nott`s County, although he will probably be back in the defence after his attacking exploits in mid-week.
Stuart Downing and George Boateng continue to struggle and it would appear this game has come too soon for them. This will mean Jonathon Woodgate will continue as captain on his home debut.
Middlesbrough (from): Schwarzer, Turnbull, Davies, McMahon, Parnaby, Woodgate, Pogatetz, Bates, Taylor, Cattermole, Morrison, Euell, Yakubu, Mendieta, Rochemback, Parlour, Maccarone, Johnson, Viduka.
Player to watch: Jonathon Woodgate
Middlesbrough`s on-loan Real Madrid centre-back has been instrumental so far helping Boro to a clean sheet last time out against Bolton that earned him the man-of-the-match award and England contention again. There is no doubting his talent and Benni McCarthy and co. will be hoping that he doesn`t produce another international class performance at the back.
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Rovers still have three notable absentees in Ryan Nelsen (hamstring), Steven Reid (back) and Jason Roberts (groin). Roberts is making good progress but is unlikely to make the side this time with Hughes perhaps having one eye on the UEFA game against Salzburg on Thursday.
Andy Todd and Francis Jeffers look like they will be joining their team-mates on the unavailable list. Todd picked up a knock to his leg in training and is struggling to be fit whilst Jeffers has had a bout of illness and is struggling to be at full fitness.
Stephane Henchoz is still trying to regain full fitness so he misses out again.
This could give Shabani Nonda the chance to make his full debut for Rovers after hugely impressing with his substitute displays against Sheffield United and Manchester City. Aaron Mokoena could also start after his impressive second half performance against Man City.
Blackburn (from): Friedel, Neill, Khizanishvili, Tugay, Emerton, Savage, Bentley, Nonda, McCarthy, Pedersen, Mokoena, Jeffers, Brown, Peter, Gallagher, Ooijer, Gray, McEveley.
Player to watch: Shabani Nonda
He is likely to make his full debut and it already appears he has a decent understanding with McCarthy up-front. His pace and power will provide Woodgate and co. with plenty to think about.
He was unlucky not to score against Man City after being denied by a great piece of goal-keeping by Nicky Weaver so he will be eager to demonstrate his predatory instincts on Saturday.
Match Facts & Stats
Between them, both sides have conceded seventeen goals this season.
They have each conceded five goals at home, more than any other Premiership side.
Middlesbrough has the joint worst defence in the division, shared with Charlton.
In four of the last five seasons, including this one, Rovers have secured five points from their opening five games.
Home and away: League: Middlesbrough 34 wins, Blackburn 46, Draws 26
Prem: Middlesbrough 8 wins, Blackburn 6, Draws 4
at Middlesbrough: League: Middlesbrough 23 wins, Blackburn 19, Draws 11
Prem: Middlesbrough 6 wins, Blackburn 3, Draws 0
Chris Foy has already refereed a Middlesbrough match this season although they will be hoping for a different score-line. He oversaw their drubbing at the hands of Portsmouth. He has, so far, produced seven yellow cards in three games.
It will be a tight affair, unlike Rovers` last outing. A draw will be a fair reflection on a game of few chances. Both sides have creativity from wide positions and strikers capable of putting the ball into the back of the net. Boro will take the lead with Rovers equalising in the second half.
Red Bull Salzburg at Ewood Park on Thursday 28th September 2006