The attention turns to the FA Cup this weekend, as League One outfit Doncaster Rovers visit Ewood Park.
The fixture is a repeat of the Carabao Cup Round One tie back in August, in which Rovers ran out as 3-2 winners.
Rovers kicked off 2021 with a victory over Birmingham City, and will now look to progress through to the fourth round of the tournament for the first time under the management of Tony Mowbray.
Standing in the way is a Doncaster side who, due to the ongoing pandemic, are without a fixture since 22 December.
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Managed by former Rovers coach Darren Moore, Doncaster currently sit fourth in the league table with games in hand on all three teams above them.
We Meet Again…
The aforementioned Carabao Cup victory was the last time the two sides met, as goals from Lewis Holtby, Joe Rankin-Costello and Adam Armstrong secured Rovers’ place in the second round of the tournament, where they were eliminated by Newcastle United.
Rovers also met Doncaster in the 2018-19 season. Despite Doncaster getting the upper hand of the Ewood Park meeting – running out as 3-1 victors in the first home match of the season – it was Rovers who left the Keepmoat Stadium with all three points, and memories to last a lifetime.
Charlie Mulgrew scored the only goal of the match as Rovers secured promotion from League One with two matches to spare, sparking a pitch invasion at full-time.
The Ones To Watch
Midfielder Ben Whiteman has been the centre of plenty of transfer talk this month, and Rovers’ local rivals Preston North End saw a bid turned down for the midfielder this week, meaning he is in contention to feature at Ewood Park.
Whiteman has had an impressive season so far in the third tier, contributing to a total of nine goals, a number bettered by only six other players in the division.
Fejiri Okenabirhie has led the Doncaster line in the last two fixtures and, barring any unknown reasons, could do the same here as he looks for his second goal of this year’s FA Cup after scoring in their first round victory over FC United Of Manchester.
However, Darren Moore is having to deal with a depleted squad due to the coronavirus outbreak that caused their three post-Xmas fixtures to be cancelled, and it is expected that Doncaster will be unable to even fill the substitutes bench – with nine players allowed to be selected due to the recent rule changes.
Rovers are set to be without nine players (according to the Lancashire Telegraph). Lewis Holtby (hamstring) and Ryan Nyambe (self isolating) are the two confirmed names, with a further seven set to miss the match – including one unnamed player who is also self-isolating.
This means we could see a number of the U23 side be part of the matchday squad, with defensive duo Dan Pike and Louie Annesley both pictured training with the club this week.
Tony Mowbray also confirmed that Lewis Travis and Bradley Dack – both of whom returned from injury in recent fixtures – will start in a bid to build fitness.
Predicted XI: Kaminski, Pike, Lenihan, Annesley, Bell, Travis, Buckley, Dack, Dolan, Gallagher, Brereton
In terms of the fixture, both sides are hit by Covid and injury-related issues, meaning the line-ups will feature several fringe players.
I’m expecting a Rovers victory, and for Tony Mowbray’s side to finally reach the fourth round under his management.
Prediction: Rovers 3-1 Doncaster Rovers