23rd Vs 13th
Even though they have won two out of their last three fixtures, Stoke City still find themselves three points away from safety. Midweek, Stoke slumped to a 1-0 defeat away at Cardiff, where in a rather quiet affair, Leandro Bacuna's early first half strike was enough to give the Bluebirds all three points. Whilst the Potters were able to dominate possession, they were unable to do anything with it. Stoke only managed one shot on target to go along with their 66% possession of the ball.
Despite losing 1-0 against Cardiff in midweek, there are certainly signs of progress for the Potters under new coach Michael O'Neill.
Before O'Neill's appointment, the Potters had only won two out of their first 15 league fixtures, and in just three games under O'Neill, the Potters have already equalled that total. Whilst O'Neill's two victory's have come against Barnsley and Wigan, two sides who join Stoke in the relegation zone, the key to escaping a relegation battle is to beat the teams around you.
Whilst Stoke are looking to make it two home wins on the bounce for the first time this season, Blackburn are looking to put an end to their unfortunate away form. The Rovers have now lost their last four away games in a row, form which see's them sitting 18th in the Championship away table.
Despite their poor away form, Tony Mowbray's side have won three out of their last four fixtures, with all three victories coming at home. Midweek, Blackburn were able to overcome promotion contenders Brentford 1-0, thanks to an early first half goal from Bradley Dack. Even though the Rovers only had 37% of the ball, they made the most of the ball when they had it, something which Stoke failed to do in their loss to Cardiff.
In the same fixture last season, Blackburn left the Bet365 stadium with all three points, as they defeated the Potters 3-2. The result fixture however yielded the opposite result, as Stoke beat the Rovers 1-0 away at Ewood Park.
In the 94 meetings between the two sides since they first met in 1888, Blackburn have come out on top 43 times, where as the Potters have won just 36 of the meetings.
Stoke City Predicted XI: Butland, Carter-Vickers, Batth, Martins Indi, Ward, Ince, Ndiaye, Woods, Allen, Clucas, Gregory.
It is unlikely that O'Neill is going to make many, if any changes to his Stoke side. However, if James McClean is 100% fit, it's likely that he will be given the nod. O'Neill will be without defenders Liam Lindsay and Ryan Shawcross, as both are yet to fully recover from their injuries.
Blackburn Predicted XI: Walton, Nyambe, Lenihan, Adarabioyo, Downing, Travis, Evans, Armstrong, Dack, Rothwell, Graham.
Tony Mowbray may have Sam Gallagher and Derrick Williams available for this weekends fixture, but he will have to assess their fitness beforehand. Otherwise, he is likely to field a very similar team to the side that beat Brentford midweek. Whilst Ryan Nyambe came off injured midweek, it will be touch and go as to whether he will be fit enough to make the starting XI.
What The Managers Have Said
Stoke boss O'Neill had this to say ahead of this Saturdays fixture:
"When we look back on the game in midweek we limited the opposition to very little. However, what we did with the ball wasn't good enough and we have gone through that with the players."
"We will set team goals, however the main one at the moment is to win the next game. We will also set players individual goals in time."
"The supporters are huge and the atmosphere last weekend was great. They really pushed the team on in the final few minutes. If they can give us that little extra bit they will see it in the players too. The fans are fantastic here and we will need that to continue."
In a conversation with iFollow Rovers, Mowbary had this to say about his sides visit to the Bet365 Stadium:
“We’re pleased with the week so far and we just have to keep the positivity going really, and go into the next game in the same frame of mind"
“We need to be as positive as we can and believe that if we all do our jobs that we’re capable of winning anywhere."
“That’s the mentality to take into this weekend’s game. Every game is difficult, every team wants to win and we’re no different."
“The concentration, the focus of the team, we’ll go into the game believing that we can win if everyone does their job, works hard, the defenders keep their concentration and the strikers take their chances."