Here we are again, round four of this season`s Blackburn Rovers versus Arsenal spectacular. Arsenal edge the contest, well dominate it really, but Rovers have a real chance to make a difference with victory in Wednesday nights F. A. Cup fifth round reply.
Rovers` much maligned display at the Emirates some ten days ago ensured that the small town Lancashire side still have a cup competition to compete in after their heart-breaking and agonizing defeat at the hands of the German`s last week.
Still there won`t be any German`s handing the opposition a lifeline in this fixture as Arsene Wenger has a number of injury and selection problems to contend with. With that in mind and Mark Hughes` squad, by contrast fitter and stronger, it appear that Hughes decision to defend for 90 minutes at the Emirates was an inspired turn.
Rovers will certainly look to attack in this second leg and with Shabani Nonda bang in form and Benni McCarthy returning rejuvenated Rovers fans have every reason to be optimistic.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: “For us it is important just to win and to qualify to get positive vibes again after our disappointment on Sunday. The FA Cup is another chance for us to go to another final and win a trophy. It is another important week, but we want to negotiate it better than we did the last one.“
Mark Hughes on the squad options: “I haven’t had that opportunity on that many occasions this season. People have come back and are fit and it gives me more options. It is all about picking the right combinations.“
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Ryan Nelsen missed the win over Portsmouth with a slight strain and Chris Samba had to be replaced at half time. However, both are deemed fit enough for Wednesday nights replay.
Also returning could be Benni McCarthy. He is likely to take the place of Matt Derbyshire as Shabani Nonda grabbed a brace in the last game.
Rovers from: Friedel, Emerton, Henchoz, Khizanishvili, Nelsen, Samba, Todd, Warnock, Berner, Bentley, Tugay, Mokoena, Dunn, Pedersen, McCarthy, Roberts, Nonda, Brown, Derbyshire, Gallagher.
Player to watch: Benni McCarthy
His rest will hopefully see Rovers` top-scorer end his goal draught on Wednesday. The South African hit-man has been off-form lately but will be keen to find his midas touch once more to aid Rovers` pursuit of Silverware.
Without Toure in Arsenal`s defence is an added bonus as McCarthy will be able to bring all his experience and skill to the fore.
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal are depleted with injuries and suspensions to key players. Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure are both suspended following Sunday`s cup final brawl. Also absent is Thierry Henry, Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby. Wenger has confirmed that Cesc Fabregas will also be rested.
So Arsenal arrive at Ewood with a stretched first team, giving Rovers an excellent chance of progressing.
Arsenal from: Almunia, Gallas, Senderos, Djourou, Clichy, Hleb, Gilberto, Fabregas, Rosicky, Henry, Adebayor, Poom, Ljungberg, Denilson, Flamini, Aliadiere, Baptista, Traore.
Player to watch: Jeremie Aliadiere
The rapid Frenchman has been an improved player this season demonstrating just why Arsene Wenger thought so highly of him. This will be a rare Premiership start for him with injuries to Henry and Robin van Persie and suspension to Adebayor making him the recognised partner for another improving player, Julio Baptista.
The pair have an excellent understanding following their League Cup displays together this season but it will be the pace of Aliadiere that will be the worry for Rovers.
Match Facts & Stats
Click on the three links below for highlights of Rovers first three battles against Arsenal this season, the most recent of which shows Brad Friedel single-handedly repel all the Gunners can firs at him.
Click here to see Big Bad Brad`s amazing double save in the F A Cup tie.
View the highlights of Rovers` last visit to the Emirates.
View Rovers` last game against Arsenal here.
Graeme Poll is the match official for the Wednesday night reply.
It will definitely be a more open game than the first tie at The Emirates, but there won`t be any prizes for that statement. Arsenal`s hoodoo over Rovers finally came to end in the first game and that, coupled with Rovers` three consecutive clean sheets, will provide the home side with a major boost.
Another factor that could play a part might team rotation. Wenger will be forced to shuffle the pack again because of injuries whereas Mark Hughes only has welcome headaches.
I fancy Rovers to clinch a place in the quarter finals with an extra-time win.
Bolton at the Reebok on Sunday.