Manchester City players celebrate Fernandinho's goal against Swansea City in the English Premier League, January 1. Reuters
Not too long ago a clash between Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City would have seen the match start on an even keel, if not with the former installed as favourites.
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How times have changed. Blackburn find themselves struggling in the Championship, while Manchester City, having won the English Premier League title the year Blackburn got relegated, are again favoured to win the league this year.
So, when the two sides lock horns in the FA Cup third round, there will be one overwhelming favourite, and it will certainly not be the team playing in home colours at Ewood Park.
"It's an important competition and we want to win," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "I just talked with the players that it is an important test for us, not only for the team but also for individual performances -- maybe for some players that have the chance to play now in the FA Cup.
"It is a very important and very traditional cup here in England and I repeat what I said about the Capital One Cup. I know it's not the same cup, but both finish in Wembley and I think to finish in Wembley with a final, it is important for every team.
"It will be a difficult game. If we think that because we are in Premier League and they are in the Championship that we are going to win, I think it's an important mistake. I think all the teams playing at home are very difficult. Maybe Blackburn is not in the best moment or in the Championship, but I think that playing at home and playing against us, they will be very motivated and try to win.
"We must play with concentration, intensity and with the tempo we need if we want to win.
For Gary Bowyer it really is a nothing-to-lose tie, and with the match scheduled to take place at Ewood Park rather than at the Etihad, where City, finalists last season, have been unbeatable, the Blackburn manager, whose side shocked Arsenal in the FA Cup last season, sees a tiny speck of light at the end of the tunnel.
"I think only if it had been Manchester City at their place then it would have been a tougher one," Bowyer told Rovers Player. "You can look at it two ways, you can meet the challenge head on or you can sit back and worry about this player and that year.
"We've decided to go the other way and enjoy it and measure where we are against them and why not."
Team news: Blackburn: Todd Kane and Corry Evans are ruled out for Rovers, with David Dunn and Jason Lowe set to come back into contention.
"We'll see who is carrying one or two knocks and then we'll make a decision on that," Bowyer said. "You've got to be a little bit sensible if one or two are carrying niggles, but everybody wants to be part of it because it is a special game. It has been the best cure to some injuries that is for sure.
"Everybody wants to be available for it and we are really looking forward to it."
Manchester City: Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic, Micah Richards, Martin Demichelis and Jack Rodwell are all sidelined, with Pellegrini set to rotate his squad as always.
Expected lineups: Blackburn: Eastwood; Marshall, Dann, Hanley, Spurr; Taylor, Williamson, Cairney, Gestede; Rhodes, Campbell.
Manchester City: Pantilimon; Boyata, Nastasic, Lescott, Clichy; Garcia, Fernandinho; Navas, Silva, Milner; Dzeko.
Prediction: 3-0 to Manchester City
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