Rovers at full strength


Blackburn hope to have a fully fit squad for their clash with Stoke in the Barclays Premier League.

Brett Emerton and Gael Givet should be available for the match at Ewood Park having missed Wednesday night's 3-0 defeat at Fulham with knee and thigh problems respectively.

One definite absentee, however, will be manager Sam Allardyce, who is undergoing heart surgery on Friday and will sit out the match as he did for the Fulham game and the 2-0 win at Bolton last Sunday.

Assistant manager Neil McDonald will once again take Allardyce's place in the dugout.

McDonald has called on Blackburn to maintain the home form they have shown since Allardyce's arrival at the club by repeating the performance they put in for his very first match.

Rovers have lost only twice in front of their own fans since Allardyce replaced Paul Ince as manager last December.

Allardyce's reign got under way with a 3-0 victory at Ewood Park over Stoke and McDonald is hoping for the same outcome this weekend.

"We are really looking forward to the game," he said.

"Our home form is excellent and we are going to try and continue that as much as we possibly can.

"Sam's first game was against Stoke so we are hoping to have the same performance and the same result on Saturday.

"They have lots of strengths, but they have lots of weaknesses as well. I think it is two defeats in 15 (at home) since the manager came to the football club. It is excellent and long may it continue."

McDonald has overseen a 2-0 victory at Bolton last Sunday, followed by a disappointing 3-0 defeat at Fulham three days later, results that are in keeping with what has been a hit-and-miss season so far for Blackburn.

However, victory on Saturday will bring Rovers level on points with Stoke, whose campaign has been deemed a relative success, and McDonald is in positive mood about the way things are progressing.

"We already have three points on the board from two games and we will be looking for those three points to make it six out of nine, which will be a great return," McDonald said of his time in charge.

"If we can beat Stoke, they have had a good season and it means we must be doing okay.

"We'll hopefully be in the top half and it will give the players even more confidence to go on and try and get more victories, and more points away from home.

"But certainly the base for our season so far has been the home form, and we are going to try and keep that going."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis hopes Glenn Whelan will have recovered from a groin strain in time for the game.

Whelan suffered the injury in the Republic of Ireland's World Cup play-off with France but returned to training with the Potters this week.

Club captain Abdoulaye Faye is available again having missed last Sunday's 1-0 win over Portsmouth through suspension.

Potters midfielder Salif Diao is hopeful of shaking off a groin niggle which has plagued him recently.

The Senegal international has provided an effective shield for Stoke's defence when fit for selection and admits he takes as much satisfaction from keeping goals out at one end as he would from scoring them at the other.

"If I manage things with the defenders and we keep a clean sheet, I think my job is done," Diao said.

"That is my job in the team - I'm not asked to do anything else, score goals or do crazy tricks.

"My work is to protect that back four and every time we get a clean sheet from a game, I feel like I have scored a goal.

"I'm trying to be myself and I have nothing to prove to anyone.

"All my team mates and all the managers that have had me know what I am all about, so I just try to make sure that if they pick me in the team, I deliver."

Diao has helped Stoke maintain their good form from last season and the team go into Saturday's match lying ninth in the table with 19 points from 13 games.

The Potters' continued progress after finishing 12th in their debut Premier League campaign has started talk of a possible push for Europe, but Diao insists the players are thinking about nothing for the time being other than matching last year's points total.

"For us the main target at the moment is to reach those 45 points as quick as we can," Diao said.

"When we get to that stage, maybe we will sit with all the rest of the lads and the manager and think about going for something else."

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