Blackburn Rovers boss Steve Kean has faced a barrage of criticism in light of his side’s failure to beat in-form Everton last weekend, but the 43-year-old will come across another under-pressure manager in the form of Roberto Mancini when Manchester City visit Ewood Park on Monday night. Kean, who was once linked with a coaching role under Brazilian World Cup winning manager Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea, is aiming to steer Rovers clear of relegation trouble, while Mancini will be hoping to lead City to a top-four finish.
Pressure is part and parcel of football, as Kean is undoubtedly beginning to learn. While the national media appeared to turn against Kean when he replaced Sam Allardyce in the Ewood Park hot-seat back in December, the Scot has more recently started to lose the support of some of the fans and the local media. However, a good win over stylish opponents can quickly lift the doom and gloom, as shown by Rovers’ superb victory against Liverpool in January. Kean won some fans over on that fantastic night and the next game against City provides him with the opportunity to do so once again.
The Manchester outfit will be brimming with confidence after they dumped bitter rivals Manchester United out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage last weekend, but one only has to look back at City’s last league game to understand that things are not so rosy for Mancini’s men either. Indeed, the Blues slipped to a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool just two weeks ago. City may be on the verge of winning their first major trophy in 35 years, but they are by no means invincible.
In fact, the Citizens have lost their last three away games and have failed to taste victory on their Premier League travels in 2011. During this time, they have scored just three goals away from home, despite having almost £100m worth of strikers at their disposal. Worse still, Mancini is now without top-scorer and influential skipper Carlos Tevez, who bagged 19 league goals before picking up a hamstring injury against Liverpool. Without the Argentinean hot-shot, City’s goalscoring record is below average. Explosive striker Mario Balotelli and goal-shy Bosnian Edin Dzeko will have to step up to the plate.
Kean, who guided Rovers to three victories in his first seven league games in charge, should be able to welcome star-man Junior Hoilett back into the team after he recovered from a hamstring injury. The Canadian winger has been in sensational form for Rovers of late and will relish coming up against Aleksandar Kolarov, who is relatively suspect at the back. Meanwhile, Roque Santa Cruz is ineligible against his parent club. Jason Roberts, Mame Diouf, Nikola Kalinic or Benjani could deputise for the Paraguayan.
Considering that Rovers have lost just seven of their last 42 league games at Ewood Park and are unbeaten in four North West derbies at home this season, victory is by no means guaranteed for City. Mancini’s side will be favourites to win given their superior league position, but Blackburn are certainly no pushovers on their own turf.