Saturday, 15 August 2009

Blackburn preview

Where better to start than Ewood Park?

It's the ground where Mark Hughes made his name as a manager, where he built the reputation that kept him in his job despite last season's disappointments, but which must be replaced by real achievements at City if he is to stay in his job.

It's also the ground where we turned around last season - where, had Daniel Sturridge and Robinho not scored late goals, the second half of the season would have been rather uncomfortable. We may not be discussing an opening day fixture with Blackburn Rovers, with Mark Hughes as our manager, had they not.

More importantly, though, it is the first of a series of difficult away games that will define our season. As everyone knows, our home and away form were miles apart last year: more home away wins than anyone but United, fewer away wins than anyone but West Brom. If we are to achieve what we ought to this season we will need to drag our away form up towards what we can do at home. And while I'm not expecting us to win at Anfield or Stamford Bridge yet, we really need to start winning at bad teams.

Just read last season's table from the bottom up and see how we did at the various grounds: we lost 2-1 at WBA, lost 2-0 at Boro, drew 2-2 at Newcastle, drew 2-2 at Hull, won 3-0 at Sunderland (!!!), drew 2-2 at Blackburn, lost 2-0 at Portsmouth, lost 2-0 at Bolton, lost 1-0 at Stoke, and lost 2-1 at Wigan. So that's six points from a possible thirty at the bottom ten clubs. If we want sixth, we need to do better.

The success or not of this campaign, then, will be largely determined by our ability either to neutralise or to conquer the battlefields of the bottom half: first Ewood Park today, then Fratton Park at the end of the month, the DW Stadium in October, St. Andrew's in November, the Reebok Stadium and Molineux in a packed December, the Brittania in January, the KC Stadium in February and then Turf Moor in April. Eighteen or even twenty points from those ten games and we'll be doing well. But this starts today.

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