Arsenal v Blackburn
Saturday 14 March 2009, Emirates Stadium
Arsenal beat West Brom 3-1 away in their last league outing, ending a run of five straight league draws and continuing a run of fourteen straight league matches without a single loss.
In their last five matches, Arsenal have won one and drawn four, earning seven points from the fifteen on offer. In these matches, the Gunners scored three goals and conceded one, and currently sit 5th in the league, three points behind 4th placed Aston Villa and four points ahead of 6th placed Everton.
Arsenal will be without Cesc Fabregas (knee) and Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) whilst Emmanuel Adebayor is still in doubt, although Mikael Silvestre is hopeful for a return. Late news is that striker Eduardo will miss out the match after picking up a groin strain in Arsenal’s Champions League victory against Roma on Wednesday.
Blackburn Rovers came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 away in their last league outing, their third successive league match without a loss.
In their last five matches, Blackburn have won two, drawn one and lost two, picking up seven points from the fifteen on offer. The Rovers scored five and conceded six in this games, and their latest win brings them out of the relegation zone to 15th place, two points behind 14th placed Hull and one point ahead of 16th placed Stoke.
Blackburn will be without Brett Emerton (ACL knee) and Steven Reid (knee) on long-term injuries.
Arsenal demolished Blackburn 4-0 earlier this season at Ewood Park, and last season’s Arsenal vs Blackburn fixture saw the Gunners victorious 2-0.
Both teams had some inspiring midweek results, with Arsenal progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League after a gripping penalty shoot-out win against AS Roma in Italy, whilst Blackburn came from behind to post a much-needed win over Fulham that takes them out of the relegation zone.
A win for both teams is absolutely vital for differing reasons; Arsenal are just three points behind 4th placed Aston Villa and so a win against the Rovers would put them into 4th place, if even for a day. With Arsenal closing the gap on Villa for the final Champions League spot, a win is definitely needed for Arsenal in order to regain their all-important “Big Four” status.
Blackburn, on the other hand, need as many points as they can in order to stave off the threat of relegation, with the Rovers only two points clear of the relegation zone in a very congested table that currently sees only seven points separating 8th placed Manchester City and 18th placed Portsmouth.
With the return of Theo Walcott to Arsenal’s ranks, the Gunners will receive a much-needed boost coming into a crucial part of the season where results are absolutely essential. As such, with a starting squad that is regaining much-needed firepower after lengthy injury layoffs, and with the massive crowd at Emirates behind them, Arsenal will go into this fixture as imposing favourites for victory.
However, with both teams having everything to play for, and with the Rovers currently holding a very impressive away record, the Gunners will need to knuckle down to ensure that they do not post their 6th draw in seven matches in this weekend’s encounter.