Blackburn entertain Manchester United this weekend in the FA cup, reigniting one of English footballs oldest rivalries. The two clubs were constantly battling each other for Premier League supremacy during the mid 90's and will meet again at Ewood Park as the two sides strive to make it into the hat for the quarter final.
The current holders United, will look to continue their impressive recent form with what would seem a relatively easy tie. However, the Old Trafford side are in a monumental battle to try and secure Champions League football next season, whilst also competing in the Europa League, which may give the Championship side their best chance of success; a tired or changed Red Devils side could fail to click in a game, which the hosts will see as a chance to alleviate their own league stresses, the 1995 Premier League champions currently sit in the relegation zone, three points from safety.
Whilst Jose Mourinho will be cautious about using a full strength team, the side which currently sits sixth place and just one point from rivals Liverpool will not play a league fixture until the 5th of March, a home tie against league strugglers Bournemouth, so Blackburn may be faced with a significantly stronger side than could have been expected. They do however have two ties in the Europa league and a League Cup final against Southampton to contend with, so some tinkering will be considered by the Portuguese manager.
(FORM GUIDE: DWLWDL)
As one of the few team that have won the Premier League, it is difficult to watch the continued decline of one of British footballs iconic clubs. Currently facing a huge battle to avoid dropping into League One, the Lancashire side have a chance this weekend to relive past glories. The visit of past fierce rivals Manchester United, will have the home fans at Ewood Park eager to see their side give the Premier League side at least a run for their money, and allow them to forget about the growing concern regarding their precarious position.
Manager Owen Coyle is under increasing pressure, he has been in charge of the side for nearly nine months now after replacing Paul Lambert at the end of last season. The side have failed to find any cohesion this season, and it is increasingly likely that the Blackburn board will have to make a decision regarding his future soon. Owen Coyle has a very disappointing record whilst in charge of the former Premier League side, he has lost 17 of his 35 games in charge of the side. A good performance against Manchester United will not only help his cause, but may present Blackburn with the opportunity to climb out of the relegation zone in terms of instilling confidence.
Current club top scorer Sam Gallagher is a doubt for the game after receiving stitches in his knee following the side's 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, which is the clubs only real injury concern.
(FORM GUIDE: DLWDWW)
The Old Trafford side now look like a side that are destined to be real contenders for the League next season and despite a poor start to the campaign are eyeing up the fourth qualifying spot for the Champion League this season. Jose Mourinho has seemingly stamped his authority on his side and will look to ensure his sides spectacular league form is not derailed by putting in a poor performance against Blackburn in the cup.
It is difficult to guess what side Mourinho will put out against Blackburn as the side are competing in four competitions and face four games in little over a weeks time, so it is probably not going to contain stars such as Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Juan Mata which may give Blackburn the best chance of getting something from the game as a side that changes, as we have seen already in earlier rounds can struggle.
Manchester United have now won eight consecutive games in the FA cup and will look to use the tie to give some of their fringe players a run out, whilst ensuring that their form is not affected, players such as Sergio Romero, Marcus Rashford and Chris Smalling are expected to take part.
- Blackburn have a passing success rate of just 71.2%, whilst Manchester United have an impressive 84.7%
- Blackburn have on average 11.1 shots at goal per game, with 3.7 of those hitting the target. Manchester United have 17.2 shots per game, with 6.3 hitting the target.
- Blackburn win on average 23.3 aerial duels per game, whilst Manchester United win just 18.5
- Blackburn have scored 36 goals in 31 league appearances. Manchester United have scored 38 in 25 league outings.
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Whilst this game looks a relatively easy one to call, the fixture pile up for Manchester United will force Jose Mourinho to use the full extent of his squad, which may allow Blackburn to come away from the game with something.
Although the Championship side are struggling in the league, a cup game always gets the pulses flowing like no other fixture, especially when a fierce old rival arrives in town. The fans will be pumped up at Ewood Park and will be expecting their side to at least cause their Premier League opponents some headaches and will enjoy the fact that there is no pressure on the game for them. A tough game for them, but if Manchester United use players that are not automatically first team regulars, an opportunity may present itself for their players to make a name for themselves.
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