The win against Derby on 30th December ensured Rovers ended a barren run and finished 2007 in the right manner. It is now important to make the most of this upturn in form with a victory to start 2008 in the right way and maintain our winning ethos to a new year.
Sunderland come to Ewood Park looking to end a run of six consecutive away defeats and avoid a second defeat to Rovers this season. It is also another clash between two of United`s contemporary great players, now doing a stellar job in management.
However, Mark Hughes` Rovers should have the upper hand against Roy Keane`s Mackems. The performances against Chelsea, Man City and Derby showed a marked increase in quality from Rovers but they must avoid conceding the opening goal. It is making games all the more difficult.
Also, conceding the opener against Sunderland could prove to be a very difficult deficit to over-turn. They will look to sneak an early goal and will be encouraged by Rovers` proneness to defensive lapses.
However, if Hughes` troops can take the lead in a match for the first time in ten games then a chance to control a game could have one of two affects. Either Rovers take confidence and dictate the game, or the goal leaves the players wondering what to do next, such is the length of time since Rovers scored first.
We would hope it is the former and not the latter. After all, the team were winning for fun earlier in the season. That opening goal will be key.
It will also be important to subdue two living legends in the Sunderland side, the famed pairing of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole. The pair both played fro Rovers together for a two year period, to limited success.
And a final sub-plot, Keane has his eye on two Rovers players – Robbie Savage and Jason Roberts. Hughes has hinted at the fact they both may leave in the now busy transfer window so could he be tempted to flaunt them in front of Keane.
Blackburn manager Mark Hughes on conceding the first goal: ‘It’s frustrating because it’s undermining what we’re trying to do. We know we’re a good side at this level but you’ve still got to make sure you don’t concede goals and put yourselves in situations that are difficult to get out of.’
‘Once we’re in front we can dictate the tempo and control the game a lot better than we have done in recent weeks, when we’ve been chasing the game and trying to get back on level terms.‘
Roque Santa Cruz on being a happy Rover: ‘It was a very important choice for me and I am happy to come here.
‘At Bayern the manager told me he wanted me to stay but for the bench, and because of my injuries I knew I had to keep playing so I could get back to my best.
‘When I talked to the manager here, he said I’d have a chance and after a few months in England this feels like home.
‘This is the best thing that could have happened to me as I stayed too long at Bayern.‘
Sunderland defender Danny Collins: ‘We’ve managed to get ourselves out of the bottom three and hopefully we can go on up the league a bit.
‘We’ve haven’t won away from home but hopefully we can go to Blackburn and get at least a point.
‘I watched Blackburn last week and they came on strong towards the end. They are a fit team and they’ve got some quality players in their ranks.‘
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Mark Hughes has a slight concern over the fitness of Steven Reid who missed the match against Derby with a slight injury. Zurab Khizanishvili, who has impressed at centre-back recently could continue alongside of Ryan Nelsen as Chris Samba stays by the side of his partner, who is expecting a baby.
Rovers from: Friedel, Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Khizanishvili, Bentley, Mokoena, Tugay, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, McCarthy, Dunn, Reid, Savage, Berner, Olsson, Roberts, Derbyshire, Brown.
Player to watch: Morten Gamst Pedersen
It’s been a tough few months for Morten but a new year brings new fortunes and what better way to annouce your up-turn in form than by scoring in the first game of 2008. I fancy Morten to end his barren spell tonight.
Sunderland Team News:
Sunderland could be boosted by the returns of Nyron Nosworthy and Russel Anderson, both of whom are making excellent progress. Roy Keane is sweating on the fitness of Ross Wallace.
Sunderland from: Gordon, Ward, McShane, Halford, Harte, Higginbotham, Collins, Yorke, Etuhu, Leadbitter, Whitehead, Richardson, O’Donovan, Jones, Chopra, Waghorn, Murphy, Stokes, Cole.
Player to watch: Kenwyne Jones
He has impressed for Sunderland this season, leading their line admirably with his cocktail of pace, power and skill. He could cause the Rovers backline a few problems.
Match Facts & Stats
Rob Styles officiates having issued 4 red cards and 49 yellows in his 4 games this season.
This is a game there for the taking for Rovers but it is imperative that the promising early starts we have been making in recent games continues, but is supported by a goal or two. The opening goal will be vital. If Sunderland get it, it could be a difficult evening with a lot of long balls to the powerful Jones. However, Santa Cruz cannot stop scoring and it doesn’t look like that run will end any time soon. Bentley is also in terrific form but encouragingly Gamst and Benni are putting in some improved displays so hopefully they can end their droughts. 2-0 Rovers
The FA Cup begins for Rovers next against Coventry at Ewood Park on Saturday.