Blackburn Rovers are looking for a first win in three months to arrest their freefall towards the drop zone when welcoming Manchester City to Ewood Park on Monday night.
Rovers, boss Steve Keane is having his first taste of football management and life seemed sweet in January, when seventh-placed Blackburn were on target to meet the new owners’ ambitions of challenging for a European spot and winning silverware for the first time since the 2002 League Cup win.
But after crashing out of the FA Cup to Aston Villa at the end of January, Keane’s side has embarked on winless nine-game run and hover perilously close to a relegation place, one point ahead of third-bottom Wigan and three points from West Ham who are rock bottom of the Premier League.
Monday’s rivals are fourth in the table and embattled with Tottenham for the final Champions League slot. Roberto Mancini’s team will be on a high following the FA Cup semi final win against Manchester United at Wembley last week, but having spent a long time looking comfortable in the league their grip on fourth has weakened with some disappointing league form of late.
Given their relative league standing’s, bookmakers make City firm favourites to take three points and establish a four-point gap over Spurs with five games to play, generally priced at even money. Totesport look to be making a stand against City at odds of 21/20, the fact that City are searching for their first away win in the league this year, could have something to do with their oddsmaker’s bravado.
Bet365 is offering 16/5 for Rovers to grab a winning lifeline at Ewood Park and the fact that Blackburn have lost just once at home this year could make those odds tempting to home fans. Keane’s last three home results have been draws; Sportingbet and Victor Chandler offer the best odds of 5/2 for the trend to continue on Monday night.
Roque Santa Cruz is ineligible to play against his parent club, but Keane is confident that Junior Hoilett will have recovered from his hamstring strain and is expected to return to the starting eleven. The 20-year-old Canadian was hitting top form before being sidelined, scoring three goals in his last four games – Unibet is offering odds of 15/1 for Hoilett to open the scoring and 11/2 to score at anytime in the game.
Steven N’Zonzi will miss the game as he serves out his suspension and Keith Andrew could come into consideration for a midfield slot having returned to fitness following his layoff.
Mancini will again be without the firepower of Carlos Tevez and is expected to look to Mario Balotelli to provide goals. The enigmatic Italian striker has scored six premier league goals in 14 appearances but has not found the net since scoring in the FA Cup against Aston Villa at the beginning of March. The 20-year-old put in one of his best all-round performances against United last week, however the general odds of 6/4 for him to end his eight-game goalless streak look a little thin. Punters convinced he is due to score should look to Unibet again, the online bookmaker is well out of line with the norm, offering a shade over 2/1 at odds of 39/19.
Micah Richards will not have recovered from his hamstring injury and Mancini has no new injury concerns can field the team that played so impressively at Wembley if he chooses.