Former Blackburn manager Mark Hughes returns to Ewood Park for today’s fifth round FA Cup clash with a host of injury concerns to contend with.
While Jonathan Walters is available after missing the mid-week game against Manchester City, the Stoke boss will have to plan without the services of playmaker Bojan and midfielder Stephen Ireland.
Stoke must also face Blackburn without Marc Wilson and Ryan Shawcross at the back, according to Sky Sports.
Although Stoke should still have the upper hand, being a Premier League side, Blackburn themselves will take solace from the fact they have won three of their last two games.
They could also have top scorer Rudy Gestede back in the side for today’s clash. If he is to play alongside Jordan Rhodes, Stoke’s defensive injury worries will become even more of a concern.
The duo have 24 goals between in all competitions – including Rhodes’ mid-week goal against Rotherham – so a Shawcross-less defence will need to be alert to deal with the Blackburn frontmen, whoever they may be.
Stoke currently lie tenth in the Premier League table with their performances this season reflecting a campaign which has thus far been neither here nor there. Defensively 33 goals shed is nothing to be proud of while neither is 28 goals scored.
Winning nine of their 25 games so far this year has kept them within touching distance of a top half finish. They will surely look to gain the upper hand against their Championship opponents, however one ponders where the goals will arrive from.
Jonathan Walters is the Potters top marksman, although he is often used out wide, reducing his effectiveness. His work-rate is what is commended most often and he will play the role he is tasked with to the tee but one would hope the Stoke boss decides to play him through the middle today in an effort to upset Blackburn’s defence.
Although Mame Biram Diouf may be the best option up-front with the ball at his feet, Peter Crouch’s recent looping header against Newcastle United exemplifies the variety with which the Stoke boss can choose from when selecting his frontmen.
With both sides far from relegation worry, and Blackburn having only a faint chance of reaching the play-offs (ten points adrift of Brentford in sixth), both sides can firmly focus on this encounter.
Stokes injury concerns and Blackburn’s strikers being more potent, albeit in the Championship, make for an interesting match-up. Stoke are of course the favourites, however this writer sees this tie meaning that bit more to Blackburn and for that reason a home victory is certainly on the cards today.
Blackburn Rovers 2-1 Stoke City
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
Featured image by Kenneth Yarham [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons