Blackburn Rovers will look to end an impressive opening month on a high as they visit Middlesbrough this afternoon.
Seven points from four matches – with the only defeat coming to promotion favourites West Brom last Saturday – have seen spirits lifted at the club after a disappointing few months in the transfer market.
Things have improved on the transfer front as well, with the arrivals of Leighton Clarkson – who impressed in the aforementioned West Brom fixture – and Ian Poveda being met by a positive reaction and a result at the Riverside would see Rovers end a strong first month of the season on a high.
The notable characteristic of the side across August. is the fight. Teams in this league have better players on paper, but the way that Mowbray’s men fight for the club means we have given every side a real match so far this campaign.
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It will be a tough test, for Rovers against Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough side, although they aren’t without their own squad depth issues, with the likes of Duncan Watmore and Marcus Browne missing their last match.
Eight signings this summer, including Sol Bamba (free) and Martin Payero (rumoured to be around £6m), have boosted Warnock’s side, but a draw last time out with Derby will have been a concern for the experienced manager.
Another signing who will cause issues is Boro forward Uche Ikpeazu, who signed from Wycombe this summer. He is the kind of forward that Rovers have suffered against in recent years, and so the experience of Daniel Ayala could be key for the visitors.
The Spaniard faces his former club after an impressive start to the season, and although his injury record signals that another knock is not far away, keeping Ayala as fit as possible will be key to Rovers’ chances of causing any upsets in the league.
Putting the focus back on today’s fixture, and Tony Mowbray’s approach will be an interesting one with the arrival of Poveda.
The Leeds winger is arguably more suited to the ‘number ten’ role, and that would most likely see Clarkson move back into the midfield should they both start.
It’s nice to have a little bit of unpredictability back in the side, although I wouldn’t complain if we kept the same line-up after the West Brom defeat showed some positive signs.
Predictions: Kaminski, Carter, Lenihan, Ayala, Pickering, Travis, Clarkson, Rothwell, Gallagher, Poveda, Brereton Diaz
I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever seen Rovers draw 1-1 at the Riverside – and I’ve been three times!
I think with the same levels of fight as we’ve shown this season, we can beat the hosts here.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 1-3 Rovers