Blackburn Rovers have an excellent opportunity to avenge the 6-2 mauling dished out by Arsenal before Christmas this Saturday.
Saturday`s clash at Ewood Park sees two of the league`s form sides come face to face. Both teams enjoyed an excellent festive period and approach the game on the back of solid winning streaks culminating in the demise of the Merseyside last weekend. Arsenal put paid to Liverpool`s hopes of lifting the F A Cup again and Rovers destroyed any possibility of the blue half of the Mersey lifting the prestigious cup for the first time since 1995.
Additionally both managers will have considerable selection headaches to contend with. With goals in abundance from both sides, managers, Mark Hughes and Arsene Wenger, must choose their suitable attacking partnerships.
Since the 6-2 defeat at the hands of Arsenal, Rovers have gone from strength to strength, winning the ensuing four matches scoring an extra goal scored each time.
Will Rovers continue that trend on Saturday by putting five past Arsenal.
Mark Hughes on a selection headache: “We have a lot of players to pick from- all of them playing well. It`s the sort of situation you relish.”
Blackburn boss Mark Hughes: “Arsenal are in fantastic form and they are a fantastic side whoever they pick. But we had a great result against them last season (they won 1-0) and I think they have a healthy respect for us.“
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on their 6-2 win over Blackburn earlier in the season:
“We were flattered by that score. They have improved alot since then. This will be more difficult for us. I have five strikers available and I can only play two, or maybe only one.“
Matt le Tissier on the fixture: “We all know Arsenal are far less comfortable against sides that put them under pressure by getting the ball forward early and using set-pieces cleverly. That might not be Blackburn`s natural game, but if they can tweak it a little bit, I can see them having some success.
“Benni McCarthy looks really sharp, Shabani Nonda is finding his feet and they are also getting goals from elsewhere with the likes of Matt Derbyshire, Paul Gallagher and David Bentley chipping in recently.“
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Lucas Neill will return from suspension to captain the side once more but David Bentley misses the game against his former employers having accumulated five yellow cards this season.
Benni McCarthy and Shabani Nonda appear to have shaken off minor knocks and are ready to lead the attack. Robbie Savage and Brett Emerton are also likely to be restored to the starting eleven.
Ryan Nelsen, Steven Reid and Jason Roberts are nearing full training and could be back in action before the end of the month.
Rovers from: Friedel, Brown, Neill, Todd, Ooijer, Gray, Emerton, Savage, Tugay, Pedersen, Nonda, McCarthy, Brown, Derbyshire, Mokoena, Henchoz, Peter, Khizanishvili.
Player to watch: Benni McCarthy
The goal machine will be eager to add another goal to his already impressive season`s tally. Benni has been vocal in the press this week about how much he is looking forward to facing Arsenal after missing the game at the Emirates.
He is on top of his game at the moment and if Rovers can provide him with chances, you would back him to find the target at least once.
Arsenal Team News:
Arsene Wenger has a selection headache for this fixture as he has all four of his main strikers fully fit and in form for the first time this season. Thierry Henry has to start and so Wenger must choose between four goal mid-week hero Julio Baptista, top goal-scorer, Robin van Persie and in form Emmanuel Adebayor.
William Gallas is still missing for the Gunners and is likely to be out for the next 2-3 weeks.
Arsenal from: Lehmann, Hoyte, Toure, Senderos, Clichy, Hleb, Fabregas, Gilberto, Rosicky, van Persie, Henry, Almunia, Djourou, Adebayor, Baptista, Walcott, Aliadiere, Flamini.
Player to watch: Baptista or van Persie
Depending on who starts the key men could be either Robin van Persie or Julio Baptista. Van Persie just loves scoring against Rovers having netted six in the last four meetings between the sides.
Alternatively Baptista exploded into English football in mid-week in devastating circumstances for Liverpool. The Brazilian, on a season long loan from Real Madrid, smashed four past Liverpool and will feel that he is worthy of a starting birth.
Match Facts & Stats
The game matches the club awarded more penalties than any other in Premiership matches this season against the one to have conceded the most. Arsenal have converted seven of eight, Blackburn have given away nine.
Robin van Persie has scored six times in his last four games against Rovers.
If Rovers win then it will be their best winning streak in the Premiership since Souness` management.
Benni McCarthy (13 goals) and Robin van Persie (12 goals) are the club`s respective leading scorers.
Rovers won this corresponding fixture last season courtesy of a Morten Gamst Pedersen strike.
Rovers have only won two out of the last nine meetings between the clubs.
Chris will officiate a Rovers game for the second time this season. He last oversaw Rovers in London when they went down to a late Charlton goal. He has produced 31 yellow cards and a single red in 13 games.
Two of the league`s form teams come face to face, with confidence high and goals flowing from all over the park. So will this be a repeat of the eight goal thriller at the Emirates? In a word, no.
It will be a much tighter affair and could be decided by a single goal. Hughes will have learnt his lesson that you can`t beat Arsenal at their own game, something he will be keen to try again but it is more likely he choose a more direct approach.
If Rovers can open the scoring then they can make things very difficult for Arsenal. Rovers can play a more direct game and this approach is renowned for unsettling Arsenal.
I fancy Rovers to exact revenge for the demolition at the Emirates with a closely fought 1-0 win.
Another of the league`s form sides, Man City away are next in line for Rovers on 20th January 2007 at 17:15.