Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester City
August 15th, 3pm, Ewood Park.
Anticipation. Conjecture. Speculation. Excitement. Four words to roughly summarise a typical preseason for any given football club. Now multiply the intensity of each by a hundred and you get an illustration of the last three months at Manchester City. Not unfamiliar with the concept of a revolution, the Blues once again set out this Summer to overhaul a squad that underachieved badly last season. So out went Michael Ball, Darius Vassell, Dietmar Hamann, Elano, Glauber Berti, Ched Evans, Danny Mills, Gelson Fernandes and Daniel Sturridge with Joe Hart, Felipe Caicedo, Jo, Valeri Bojinov and Shaleum Logan sent on one year loans across Europe, and in came Stuart Taylor, Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Touré and Roque Santa Cruz. It’s a remarkable turnover of players in such a short time but returning to Ewood Park, home of his former employers tomorrow, Mark Hughes will hope to justify such an overhaul and equally vindicate the huge expenditure of the players brought in.
Having spent so long discussing the merits of his signings and the progress their respective additions will allow the Club to make, we are finally at the eve of the start of the 2009/10 Barclays Premier League season and therefore finally we will have some insight, some indication as to whether the team can live up to the hype. Expectation among fans has soared, perhaps rightly, and City will bring over 7,000 fans to Ewood Park tomorrow afternoon, each of them with tongues wagging, starved of football for so long and desperate to get things moving again.
Blackburn, meanwhile, have had a quiet Summer thus far and despite receiving in the region of £17million from City for forward Roque Santa Cruz, have only spent a combined total of £6.5million on Steven N’Zonzi, Nikola Kalinic, Franco di Santo (loan), Elrio van Heerden and Lars Jacobsen. Last season was disappointing for Rovers, who battled against relegation for much of it and the expectation among fans was that vast improvements would be needed to push forward- on the evidence of their transfer activity, it seems quite the opposite has happened and the Club have largely opted for the ‘bargain basement’ in recruiting players. Nonetheless, Sam Allardyce is famed for overachieving, thanks in part to an extremely physical style of playing, and there is no reason to suggest that cannot happen again. The bar is constantly being raised though and with clubs like City, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Sunderland spending heavily over the Summer, it makes Rovers’ task somewhat tougher.
Looking at results over the last five seasons, remarkably the Blues have only triumphed twice in league and cup competitions, a 3-2 win away in August 2003 and last May in a 3-1 win at Eastlands. There have been six draws between the two clubs and Blackburn have been victorious on five occasions, the most recent a 1-0 reverse at Ewood Park in September 2007. Ironically, each of the five aforementioned defeats came while a certain Mr. Hughes managed Blackburn.
Needless to say City have, theoretically, the superior side with the likes of Robinho, Tevez and Adebyaor now donning the blue shirt, but so often we’ve seen physicality and aggression overcome the flair. Stoke City’s success last season is (perhaps an unfortunate) testament to this. It takes much more than assembling technically gifted players, and Mark Hughes needs to find an effective, balanced system in order for City to overcome the first hurdle tomorrow and flourish throughout the campaign. There has been much debate as to whether he possess the qualities to do so- at least now we will find out one way or another.
Prediction- Blackburn 1-2 City
Thanks to Colin the King of ManCityFans.Net for writing this preview