x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Allardyce still believes in goal-shy team

Both Blackburn and Sunderland will be anxious to end respective barren runs of form when they meet at Ewood Park today.

Both Blackburn and Sunderland will be anxious to end respective barren runs of form when they meet at Ewood Park today. Rovers have not won in seven games while it is six fixtures since the Black Cats last picked up three points. The problem for Rovers has been goals, or rather the lack of them, with only two coming in the present winless run. But manager Sam Allardyce is hoping for a change in fortune. "We just have to keep believing that eventually, when we make so many chances, we will put some in the back of the net for us to win the game," he said. Top goalscorer David Dunn is ruled out again due to a calf injury, but Brett Emerton may return after the midfielder missed Saturday's clash with Wigan due to a groin injury. For Sunderland, manager Steve Bruce is without John Mensah (hamstring) and Anton Ferdinand (ankle) in defence, with Michael Turner still serving a ban after his red card at Manchester City. Striker Kenwyne Jones is doubtful with a calf injury. Bruce is looking to the clash as a springboard for the second half of the season and said: "We have got to start somewhere and I am convinced we can be better. I am sure we can be better away from home in the second half [of the season]. Let's hope we can start against Blackburn on Monday." Blackburn v Sunderland, KO 7pm, Show Comedy Extra

Carlo Ancelotti is refusing to push the panic button at Stamford Bridge despite Chelsea's run of one win in seven games in all competitions. The leaders were disappointing in Saturday's goalless draw at Birmingham, but their manager is staying calm. "It's not our best moment; one victory in seven is not good for us," he said. "I don't see a big problem though. I think we have some problems, because we have two players out who are very good in Nicolas Anelka and Michael Essien and we don't always play well. But not against Birmingham, in this match I think we played good football. Our aim is to win the title and we are at the top of the table at the moment. This was the halfway point in the season and we're top so that's good for us." Chelsea have Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel available after delaying their departure to the Africa Cup of Nations, but Florent Malouda serves a one-match suspension following his red card against Birmingham. For Fulham, defender Brede Hangeland could miss the game due to a knee injury. He hurt himself in the warm-up and while he completed the match against Tottenham, he is a doubt for the visit to Chelsea. Teammate John Panstil plays his last game before going to the African Nations. Chelsea v Fulham, KO 7pm, Showsports 1 & 2

Everton will be looking to end a run of eight games without a win at Goodison Park in all competitions when they host Burnley tonight. David Moyes's men last won on home turf in September against Blackburn and since then they have toiled in the league and the Europa League. Moyes said of the lack of success in front of the team's own fans. "At home, we have struggled a little bit recently," he said. "We have not turned draws into victories, so we have to do that. In some of the games we have dominated the majority of it, but gave them one chance and they scored. It looks like we are going to have to score more than one goal at this present time to win, and that's what our problem has been, we have not been doing that." Everton may be lifted by the return of captain Phil Neville after three months out with a knee injury. Burnley boss Owen Coyle meanwhile is hoping to keep David Nugent at the club. The striker scored in Saturday's draw with Bolton but is due to go back to Portsmouth at the end of his loan spell next month. "He knows I would love to keep him and he knows my opinion of him. I hope we can extent the loan or maybe even sort out a permanent deal as we want to bring young hungry players to the club. It is up to the powers that be to sort it out." Everton v Burnley, KO 7pm, Showsports Extra

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish believes goalkeeper Joe Hart is doing his World Cup chances no harm at all after hailing the England squad man's "terrific" form this season. Hart joined Birmingham on loan from Manchester City in the summer and after a few early mistakes has played an integral role in his side's 10-match unbeaten run. The Englishman was outstanding in Saturday's goalless draw with leaders Chelsea and McLeish said: "I think Joe has come on a ton. We started the season having spoken about one or two things and he's improved out of sight and I'm pleased for him. He's a conscientious big guy and his own worst critic. He studies everything and takes everything on the chin from the goalkeeping coach Dave Watson to try to improve." Midfielders Sebastian Larsson and Lee Bowyer both face late fitness tests for today's trip to Stoke after picking up knocks against Chelsea. Stoke have lost every game in December thus far and they will have to do without Glenn Whelan and Salif Diao after both picked up their fifth bookings of the season at Manchester City. Stoke boss Tony Pulis said: "As a Premier League club you just have to accept there will be a run of games where it is going to be difficult to pick up points." Stoke v Birmingham, KO 7pm, Show Series Extra sports@thenational.ae