Sunderland (14th) at Blackburn Rovers (15th) / Ewood Park / 3:00 PM ET – After seven games, Sunderland’s biggest problem has been exposed. Although the Black Cats have been able to perform well defensively, they haven’t been able to generate enough goals. Because of this, despite holding the powerful offenses of Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United to 2 total goals, they managed only 2 points total in those three games. This lack of offensive output has caused the team to fall to 14th place in the Premiership standings despite having suffered only one loss. Unfortunately, their cause looks will get worse before it gets any better. Leading scorer Darren Bent, who has recently been promoted to start along side Wayne Rooney for the English national team in its upcoming European Championship match against Montenegro, will be sidelined by a groin strain for Monday’s EPL match. Blackburn’s problems have been on the defensive end. The Rovers have not held a team scoreless since their season-opening 1-0 victory over Everton. They have been able to score consistently, but their porous defense has led to too many lost points. Although both teams have struggled to find consistency in all parts of the field, Blackburn has been the slightly better performer, showing better overall results against better competition. The recent news that striker Benjani Mwaruwari has retired from the Zimbabwe national team to focus the remaining years of his career at the club level should give a boost the Blackburn attack. Mwaruwari is not the striker he once was, but he can still be effective, especially against a team like Sunderland. Now that he’ll be eliminating the travel and general wear and tear of playing for both club and country and can focus entirely on the club level, Blackburn should see an improvement in his on-field performance. Blackburn will also enter the game knowing that a victory at home will bump them a minimum of 5 spots up in the Premiership standings. Both teams are desperate for points, as they don’t want to fall too far behind the pack. Although neither team has any expectations about finishing near the top of the English Premier League standings, they do both feel that they belong at least in the top half. This one should be close, but I give the slight edge to Blackburn.

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