New Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill quickly identified a lack of confidence in his players as the main reason for the their struggles this season, arguing that footballers low on self-belief are not able to display their true talent on the field.
Happily for fans of the Black Cats, O’Neill is a past master at improving players’ motivation and assuredness on the pitch, with his record at Leicester in particular showing how he is able to get the most out of his squad members.
And O’Neill could not have asked for a better match to showcase his restorative abilities than a home fixture against Blackburn, who have yet to win a league game away from Ewood Park all season.
So while Sunderland have only picked up six points from a possible 21 at the Stadium of Light, they are 4/5 favourites to beat Steve Kean’s side in bwin’s 3Way football betting market.
This leaves Blackburn as 7/2 shots to pick up their first away win of the season, with the draw priced at 12/5.
Of course, the O’Neill effect on the Sunderland players’ brittle confidence is unlikely to survive an early Blackburn goal, and should Rovers take the lead in the opening stages they will fancy their chances of going on to win.
However, Rovers have scored in the first 15 minutes of games just once this season, while Sunderland have been level with their opponents at the break in five of the seven matches they have played at the Stadium of Light.
And with Rovers being behind at the interval in four of their seven away matches this campaign – and in front in just one – the odds are that, at worst, O’Neill will deliver his first half time team talk as Sunderland manager with the game in the balance.
With the standout trend being on half time draws at the Stadium of Light, a bet on the teams being level at the break looks the best bet at odds of 6/5.
Sunderland will then surely fancy their chances of going on to clinch the win given Rovers have the fifth-worst record in the second half of away matches in the Premier League.
This points to a bet on a draw/Sunderland win at half time/full time, with this option available at odds of 4/1.
However, while O’Neill might be able to lift his team sufficiently for them to get all three points on Sunday, he is not a miracle worker.
As such, any Sunderland fan going to the ground expecting his team to score a hatful of goals is likely to be left disappointed.
After all, the Black Cats have scored just twice in their last four fixtures.
This makes a Sunderland win with under 3.5 goals one final option to consider at odds of 8/5.
A successful £25 free bet on the Black Cats to beat Blackburn in a game with fewer than four combined goals would return £65, with the free bet available to new customers who sign up for a bwin account.
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