Rochdale Preview

Here is a preview for tonights game from Chris.

Blues face a potential banana-skin Carling Cup tie tonight as newly-promoted Rochdale come to St.Andrews, in view of the Sky Sports cameras.

The Dale finished third in League Two last season, ending a 36-year stay at the bottom of the footballing pyramid.

Their tendancy to try and retain possession and pass the ball around won them lots of plaudits last seaon as they scored the second highest amount of goals in the division.

A lot of them goals came from Chris Dagnall, but the striker moved on a free transfer to Scunthorpe in the summer to try and replace Gary Hooper. Dale still have Chris O’Grady, who scored 22 in all competitions last season, but Rochdale will miss Dagnall’s pace and direct approach.

Gary Jones is the talismanic midfielder that every team needs and he is a driving force behind all of Dale’s good performances. Not only is the 33 year-old the club captain, he is also the record holder for most appearances, clocking up nearly 400 appearances in two permanent and two loan spells with the club.

Dale are yet to win in the league this season, drawing two and losing last week to Colchester, but they did upset the applecart somewhat in their last Carling Cup fixture. Rochdale travelled to Barnsley where they beat the Tykes 1-0 at Oakwell, thanks to a goal from nomadic striker Anthony Elding.

The 28-year-old is now at his 12th club after returning from Hungary where he was playing for Ferencvaros.

If the Dale are to cause an upset tonight they will have to rely on Josh Lillis, their on-loan goalkeeper from Scunthorpe.

Blues are likely to give some fringe players a game tonight and I would fully expect to see Michel start in centre-midfield. The Spaniard has endured a bit of a behind-the-scenes role since his move from Sporting Gijon, but he should relish the game tonight against weaker opposition and show his vision and tackling ability. I would also expect to see Enric Valles and David Murphy, whilst youth prospects Fraser Kerr and Jordon Mutch should at least make the bench.

Kerr could find himself at right-back, as Stephen Carr is to be rested and Stuart Parnaby is, inevitably, injured. Craig Gardner or Sebastian Larsson could also fill the berth.

Providing Blues aren’t complacent and are focused on getting the job done, I can see us brushing the Dale aside tonight. An early goal would be ideal and would settle a lot of nerves, allowing us to play our game and dictate the tempo. We should be wary of the counter-attack and try to not give away silly set-pieces as Keith Hill’s team will be prepared for free-kicks and corners.

Overall, I think Blues will progress and fancy a 2-0 scoreline with Garry O’Connor grabbing a goal. I would like to see a man-of-the-match performance from Michel as he is behing Barry Ferguson, Gardner and Lee Bowyer in the pecking order now, but a good performance could put him back in Big Eck’s plans.

I expect Blues to be comfortable in the Premier League this season, so wouldn’t mind an extended run  in one of the cups, for a change. Hopefully this can be one of many Carling Cup fixtures we will see this season.

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