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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan, 23, 2009

Allardyce to start unsettled Santa Cruz in cup

Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce hopes Roque Santa Cruz is not suffering any hangover after failing to reunite with Mark Hughes this month.

For the first time in six weeks, striker Santa Cruz returns to Rovers' starting line-up for Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round clash with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Santa Cruz was back in the picture in last Saturday's 3-0 Premier League victory over Newcastle United, playing the final 20 minutes after missing the previous four games with a calf strain.

But with Jason Roberts and Matt Derbyshire injured, Santa Cruz now gets to start under Allardyce, who earlier this month rejected a reported £16m bid from Manchester City for the Paraguay star.

The 27-year-old was understood to have been keen on a move to City, where former Rovers boss Hughes has spent £42m this month on Nigel de Jong, Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bridge, as well as significantly failing with an audacious £107m move for Kaka.

The question for Allardyce is whether Santa Cruz will be mentally switched on against the Black Cats.

''He has a contract with Blackburn, who pay him, and so he has an obligation under that contract to play when selected, and that's what I expect Roque to do,'' insisted Allardyce.

''I wouldn't have thought there will be any hangover, but we'll find out when the whistle blows at three o'clock tomorrow.''

Allardyce, though, has not entirely ruled out City increasing their offer for Santa Cruz before the window shuts on February 2.

''There's been no movement, no communication between ourselves and Manchester City for the last few days now,'' added Allardyce.

''The position we're in is that Roque is still one of our players.

''I'm not expecting anything further, so we are where we are with him. We want him to stay.

''Now whether Manchester City make another move is entirely up to them.''

With Santa Cruz seemingly staying put, and no money of his own to spend, it means Allardyce is only shopping in the loan market.

That rules out a £6m swoop for Red Bull Salzburg forward Marc Janko, and Barcelona's Eidur Gudjohnsen, a striker Allardyce knows well from their time together at Bolton.

''It would be lovely to have Eidur playing with me at Blackburn,'' added Allardyce.

''Whilst he might not be a regular at Barcelona at the moment, it is somewhere he still enjoys living and playing.

''So from that point of view, as much as I'd like it, it would be very difficult for him to come here.

''As of now there's nothing pending, nothing imminent one way or the other.

''We've had a look at a few trialists this week (Marco Zoro, Babacar Gueye and Jean Calve), but we don't feel they are going to improve the first team immediately.

''They're good players but we don't think they can make an impact straight away, so we'll be saying no to all of those.

''I'm only in the loan market, and we've done very well with Gael Givet, who I consider to be a quality player.

''If anybody else of that quality becomes available then yes, I'll be very interested, but if not then I'll go with the players I have here.''

Allardyce was coy, though, with regard to Egyptian duo Mahmood Abdel Razek and Ahmed Al-Muhammadi, who are apparently being watched by a Rovers delegation in a friendly with Kenya tonight.

''We've many players who are on our list, and no-one we are targeting,'' stated Allardyce.

''If anything particularly good arises in the next few days then we will move to try to secure it, but in the main that will only be on a loan basis.''

France international defender Givet, who joined Rovers on a loan deal until the end of the season from Marseille earlier this month, looks set for his first appearance on Saturday.

Givet is likely to replace Andre Ooijer who is sidelined with a groin problem, whilst Allardyce is also without midfielders David Dunn (Achilles) and Keith Treacy (knee) for the fourth game this season between the two sides.

After beating Sunderland in the Carling Cup in November, Rovers then lost at home in the league three days later, before Allardyce and Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia shared the spoils from a goalless draw on Boxing Day.

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