The Potters were narrowly beaten by QPR last weekend losing out by the odd goal in five although Pulis will be disappointed that his players were outperformed by the newly promoted side. The defeat was Stoke’s seventh from their last eight games and they now sit in 14th just three points above the relegation zone. It was another performance that promised so much but delivered so little as the Potters once again as they started the game brightly with Jon Walters opening the scoring after eight minutes. However they faded drastically as the game wore on allowing Rangers to see it out with ease. Their entry into this season’s Europa League has certainly put a massive burden on them with league performances suffering as a result and they’ve struggled to string a consistent run of positive results together. Pressurising their opponents high up the field has been a huge factor in the clubs success over the past few years but their exploits on the continent have sapped energy levels giving their opponents the edge. The Britannia, which was labelled a fortress after the avoided defeat until the end of October, has now bore witness to consecutive defeats for the first time this season. Confidence is clearly low at the Potteries and Pulis will need his big hitters to get them out of this rut with the likes of Peter Crouch and Matthew Etherington anonymous against QPR on Saturday. The visit of Blackburn this weekend will give them a real chance to get out of their rut and get a win on board before the frantic festive period begins.
Rovers seem to have forgot how to win games having failed to emerge victorious from their last seven games since beating Arsenal 4-3 at Ewood Park in September. Boss Steve Kean was once again the subject of negative chants from the away stand during last week’s 3-3 draw with Wigan although both parties will be happy with the resilience shown by their side. A last gasp penalty from Yakubu saved Rovers from the ignominy of losing to the rock bottom Latics but it was the never say die attitude that shone through as they kept plugging away until the end despite David Dunn’s sending off. Truth be told they deserved to take all three points away from the North West derby but once again defensive frailties cost them dearly as they saw their goals against tally rise to an alarming 27. Scott Dann looked shaky alongside Christopher Samba who had to cover two positions at times whilst Michel Salgado’s age finally caught up with him. The back four will be vital against a brutish Stoke attack who take no prisoners when marauding forward with their physical approach likely to prove a huge problem to the Rovers rearguard. However should they combat and excel over the Potters forwards then they should stand a chance with goals no longer hard to come with Yakubu and Junior Hoilett supplying goals on a regular basis with the pair contributing five of the six scored in the last three games. The chances of them winning are high with Stoke looking frail and although three points wouldn’t lift them out of the relegation zone it would certainly boost confidence levels at Ewood Park. Saying that they’ve managed to remain unbeaten in the last three on their travels.
Stoke – 14th
Last Five: Lost 3-2 v QPR (H) Lost 5-0 v Bolton (A), Lost 3-1 v Newcastle (H), Lost 3-1 v Arsenal (A), Won 2-0 v Fulham (H)
Potential Starting X11: 1. A. Begovic 28. A. Wilkinson 17. R. Shawcross [C] 4. Robert Huth 12. M. Wilson 16. J. Pennant 6. G. Whelan 24. R. Delap 26. M. Etherington* 19. J. Walters 25. P. Crouch
Injury News: Tony Pulis has no new injuries to worry about with Mamady Sidibie out long-term with a knee tendon problem.
Key Player: Matthew Etherington
Despite a few under-par performances in the last couple of games the winger is still a danger whenever the ball is at his feet. His speed and trickery haven’t been utilised as much as usual by Stoke with Pulis opting for a long ball approach that hasn’t paid dividends. Using Etherington more often could be the key to ending their barren run of form with his ability to bring the ball out of defence and use it wisely in the final third vitally important to the clubs attacking game.
Match Fact: Stoke have a strong record against Blackburn beating them in four out of the six Premier League meetings keeping five clean sheets in the process and have won the last three.
Blackburn – 19th
Last Five: Drew 3-3 v Wigan (A), Lost 1-0 v Chelsea (H), Drew 3-3 v Norwich (A), Lost 2-1 v Tottenham (H), Drew 1-1 v QPR (A)
Potential Starting X11: 1. P. Robinson 5. G. Givet 4. C. Samba [C] 31. G. Hanley 27. M. Salgado 23. J. Hoilett 15. S. N’Zonzi 35. J. Lowe 12. M. Gamst Pedersen 10. M. Formica 24. Yakubu*
Injury News: Kean could be without Samba with the Rovers captain facing a battle to be fit for the trip to Stoke after picking up a hamstring injury. Fellow defender Ryan Nelsen remains out as do midfielders Simon Vukcevic and Vince Grella
Key Player: Yakubu
Four goals in as many games have earned Blackburn some vital points in their fight for survival with his double at Wigan taking him to six for the season. Despite missing the last year or so with injury his sharpness and composure hasn’t deserted him as he showed with a 99th minute penalty to level the game at the DW Stadium. His strength and knack of being in the right place at the right time will be key to scoring the goals that will see Rovers claim three points for the first time in seven games.
Match Fact: Rovers have only managed one win against Stoke in the Premier League with it coming in their very first top flight meeting. They won 3-0 that day at Ewood Park but have failed to score or pick up a point in three visits to the Britannia Stadium.
Last Time at the Britannia Stadium
Premier League 2nd October 2010
Stoke 1-0 Blackburn
Referee: Howard Webb
Both teams are stuck in a rut although Blackburn look more capable of breaking out of theirs despite starting the season in terrible fashion. Kean’s side have drawn their last three on the road and will be hoping to become the latest team to slay Stoke in their own backyard. The Potters are looking weak at the moment with a run of feeble performances seeing them fail to win in seven of their last eight. Confidence is low in the Stoke ranks and they’ll be fearful of a Rovers side desperate to claim their first win and goal at the Britannia Stadium.