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Getting back up on the horse

10 September 2010

Tomorrow’s match against Blackburn can’t come soon enough for me. After two weeks of gnashed teeth spent stewing over that debacle at Sunderland and the very thought of football making me depressed, I’m so ready to put that behind me.

A win tomorrow isn’t going to make up for the Sunderland loss by any stretch of the imagination. It’s going to take an unexpected win to do that, which means unless City somehow aren’t favored at home against Chelsea or United, that chance for true atonement isn’t going to come until after the new year when City visit the Emirates.

Still, the taste of victory would cover up some of the nasty aftertaste still lingering from prior to the international break. I feel pretty good about that happening, as Blackburn have struggled under Sam Allardyce to replicate their great home form away from Ewood Park. Their only competitive away game this season saw Rovers lose 2-1 at Birmingham City.

Last season this fixture was on Monday Night Football, and City treated viewers to an impressive 4-1 win, highlighted by Carlos Tévez’s hat trick and Micah Richards’s excellent individual effort on his goal:

Tévez has scored eight goals in his last three starts against Rovers in all competitions, but his availability for this one isn’t certain after he picked up a knock on international duty for Argentina. That’s bad news potentially for Roberto Mancini, who already is without Mario Balotelli after the young Italian underwent knee surgery this week in Milan. It gets even worse with reports that Emmanuel Adebayor is unavailable and it could be Jô starting as a lone striker with Roque Santa Cruz on the bench.

Wayne Bridge isn’t back from his ankle injury as hoped, so either Joleon Lescott or Pablo Zabaleta should get the starting nod at left back. There’s actually some rare good news on the injury front, however, as Jérôme Boateng has made a faster-than-expected recovery from his bizarre airplane drink cart accident and reportedly is available to make his competitive debut in a City shirt.

If Tévez and Adebayor are rested, here’s what I expect Mancini’s team sheet to look like:

I know Mancini is suddenly very high on Jô, but I still have yet to see anything from him that makes me think he can cut it at this level. Honestly, I’d feel better with Santa Cruz in there at this point. I’m hoping the Tévez and Adebayor stuff is a smokescreen. Think about it. Why would Mancini go out of his way to alert Blackburn to the lineup they might be facing?

While it isn’t as bad as facing Stoke, a date with Blackburn can be a bit like visiting the dentist. Under Sam Allardyce, Rovers look to play as many aerial balls into the box as possible and try to get one of  their big target men’s heads on it. A lot of scoring takes places on set pieces, so I’m a little leery of Kolo Touré playing in this one, in light of his struggles in the air. Lescott height at left back could help matters.

If the options at striker are limited, I still expect a City win, though perhaps by a more modest margin than what we’ve seen in this fixture the last two seasons. Benjani could get his first runout in a Blackburn shirt, and despite his critical comments of the club’s management last week, I’m sure he’ll get a warm reception from the home fans simply because of his famous goal at Old Trafford in his City debut three seasons ago.

I’ll be watching the FOX Soccer Plus broadcast down in Dorchester at The Banshee with some of the MCFC Boston folks. We’re trying The Banshee because a) 10am is a popular kickoff time on Saturday and The Phoenix probably won’t want to put on the audio from the City match instead of the Arsenal match; and b) we’ve been wanting to try The Banshee, and they have two floors, so even if the Celtic is being shown upstairs at the same time, we’re hoping to get our audio turned on downstairs.

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