1. ITV Report

Bowyer: Rovers looking forward to City test

Blackburn Rovers' boss Gary Bowyer Photo: PA Images

Gary Bowyer believes his Blackburn team will relish the role of the underdog when they travel to fortress Etihad to meet in-form Manchester City in their FA Cup replay.

Only European champions Bayern Munich have avoided defeat in the 15 games City have hosted this season and sides such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have been handed severe beatings with Manuel Pellegrini's men netting 59 goals en route.

Those statistics give an indication of the gargantuan task facing Rovers, who held City to a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park to set up Wednesday night's replay in Manchester.

However, Bowyer's side have lost just one of their previous eight games and the Blackburn boss insists they make the trip in a buoyant mood as they try to halt the juggernaut that is City at the Etihad.

"Everyone's excited and relishing the challenge of going to a fantastic stadium to play a fantastic team," said Bowyer.

"We've got everything to gain; no one outside of our dressing room gives us a prayer and they are situations we quite like. We learn more about our players and they're really going to be tested on Wednesday. The players are excited about the opportunity to play against them again.

"No one gave us a chance last time we played them - and we managed to get a draw - and likewise this time. They are formidable at home but we'll be telling our players to go and have a good go at it and enjoy it and express themselves. We'll see how far they've come."

Successive wins over Leeds and Doncaster in the Sky Bet Championship have lifted spirits at Ewood Park, but there is a fear that a young, inexperienced squad could see their confidence evaporate at the prospect of City administering another thrashing.

That is not a theory which Bowyer subscribes to, though.

He added: "For the young ones, they have no fear; all they know is how to go and play and that is exactly what we're expecting from them again.

"We've got old heads around that will help them anyway, that's not a problem for them at all. We asked them who wanted a rest and didn't get an answer, they're all wanting to play. That just shows you how far they've come so quickly."

Bowyer has ruled out replicating the stifling tactics which Tony Pulis' Crystal Palace used to frustrate their hosts at the Etihad last month when City managed just a 1-0 win.

Instead he hopes the learning curve of facing Pellegrini's team the first time around can work in their favour.

"The speed of play and the quality on the ball, the value of possession and keeping the ball was massive for our lads," said the Rovers boss.

"It excited them after the game; they were talking and you could hear and see the excitement in them. It's something they're going to get the opportunity to do again which is great for them.

"We're a young team, we've got some experience back in there but they're learning all the time and improving. When we set off at the start of the season that was the aim - to bring some young, hungry players in that wanted to get better and better. Full credit to the group we've got, that's what we're doing.

"We've got a long way to go until the end of the season but we're delighted with the progress they're making."

Bowyer elected to drop top scorer Jordan Rhodes to the bench for the 1-1 draw, only bringing his 16-goal forward on in the latter stages as a potential shock looked in the offing.

With a trip to Nottingham Forest at the weekend, the Rovers manager must consider whether to rest some of his more senior players again or field his strongest possible XI in the hope of producing an upset, just as they did last year against Arsenal at the Emirates.

Both David Dunn and Paul Robinson have returned from injuries lately, and Bowyer said: "Their experience is massive for us and coupled with the youthful enthusiasm we've got, we can have a good go."