Blackburn come to town today in a game which I expect to be a tight, physical affair. Both sides will be missing players from their full strength line-ups, with Blackburn not featuring Brett Emerton or Lucas Neill - who played in Australia in midweek, whilst City see their midfielder decimated with Claudio Reyna and Kiki Musampa injured and Joey Barton missing through suspension.
Blackburn come to City on the back of their most impressive form of the season, winning four of their last six matches whilst City have dropped two of the last three games. However, Rovers have only won one of their away games this season, failing to score in their last three and conceding a second worst ten away goals.
Until last week, City had not conceded more than one goal in a game all season, and on a positive note we are joint level with Chelsea in points gained after falling behind in a game.
There is no doubt Blackburn will try and play a physical game and pressuring City players on the ball. The midfield areas will be key and it is this area in which we could struggle today without the graft and more physical presence of a Barton or Reyna as a midfield quartet of Croft, Ireland, Sun Jihai and Sibierski would not have led Robbie Savage to have too much of a troublesome nights sleep. A danger for me is Morten Gamst Pedersen who looks to be the real creative spark in the Blackburn midfield and I imagine most of the possession and attacks will come through him. Ireland could be a key player for us today if he is able to get into advanced forward positions and plays as a link between the midfield and attack.
Hopefully though, if we can come out on top in the midfield battle then I think the game could be ours for the taking as for me we dominate all other areas. Certainly I think Vassell and Cole should have too much pace and quality for the likes of Ryan Nelsen and Andy Todd in the Blackburn defence, whilst Distin and a hopefully fitter Dunne should control any of Dickov, Kuqi and Bellamy.
For once when he returns to City, I don't expect Dickov to score today after slotting penalties for both Blackburn and Leicester in previous visits - the Leicester one on the back of him 'earning' the penalty shall we say, which led to him being booed by a section of the crowd.
I wouldn't go as far as booing him as I don't believe he has done anything to particularly deserve such treatment. However, I fail to see why a large majority of City fans fete him as some kind of all-time hero. Yes, I accept that the goal he scored in the play-off effectively re-launched the club and rescued us from the cesspit of division 2, but is that one goal deserving of the praise that is heaped upon him? The playoff goal even earned the 'best ever City goal title', most important (of recent years) perhaps, but best EVER?
Dickov has surprised me at Blackburn with the number of goals he has scored (although hardly prolific) as his time at City showed only that he made up for his obvious deficencies with a strong desire and work ethic - all of which is commendable but still doesn't mask the fact Keegan was right to get rid of him when you consider the likes of Anelka, Huckerby and even Macken and Goater were also at the club.
Match day predicition:
City 2 Blackburn 1.