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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Blackburn Rovers vs. AS Nancy Lorraine

Ewood Park

13th December 2006

19:45

Rovers .v. AS Nancy

It`s top versus second at Ewood Park on Wednesday night. It won`t be often that term will be heard bouncing around the streets of Blackburn.

AS Nancy Lorraine are in town to take on Rovers, both sides tied on seven points with Nancy having the edge on goal difference. Both clubs have already qualified for the next stage of the UEFA Cup, which will be a boost for Mark Hughes in particular.

Hughes` injury list just keeps growing. The likelihood is that Hughes will have to field disgraced captain Andy Todd alongside Andre Ooijer at the back as Rovers have to plan for life without Zurab Khizanishvili, Stephane Hencoz and Ryan Nelsen.

Admirable Nelsen has been absent all season, which the Rovers fans are all too aware of but he is now joined by Zurab. Henchoz has been given some unwanted time off by the F.A. just as Tugay was.

However, the UEFA Cup has provided Rovers with the season`s highlights. A 100 percent home record followed by some impressive displays on the road have certainly made a part of this season memorable. The important thing to do is now qualify in style.

Vital Quotes:

Mark Hughes on the UEFA Cup: "People expect the Champions League teams to be a bigger test, but I have to say that the UEFA competition this year is strong in its own right. The teams that drop into competition will find that out very quickly."

Mark Hughes on squad options: "A lot of the games and a lot of the work rate in those games has landed at the feet of just a core group of players within the team. It may be that I need to protect those players and this might be an opportunity to be able to do that."

Nonda on Nancy: "They are managing to do well in both league and cup, play as a group and make it difficult for their opponents. It is important for us to get three points and finish in the first position."

Nancy coach, Pablo Correa: "Honestly, I don't think there are limits to what my side can achieve. Like in all competitions, we want to finish top and we are looking for a good result. There is still something to play for in this match."

Blackburn Rovers Team News:

Mark Hughes has a number of injury concerns and absentees plus he is likely to rest a number of players who have given their all in every game to date.

Stephane Henchoz and Zurab Khizanishvili`s respective absences have helped to widen the gaping hole in Rovers` defence. Brett Emerton will now be out until after Christmas and Francis Jeffers has been struggling with injury.

Chances are senior squad players like Morten Gamst Pedersen, David Bentley, Brad Friedel and Benni McCarthy could all be rested. This game will therefore provide an excellent opportunity for young fringe players like Sergio Peter, Matt Derbyshire and Paul Gallagher.

Rovers from: Friedel, Neill, Ooijer, Todd, Khizanishvili, Gray, Bentley, Savage, Tugay, Pedersen, Nonda, McCarthy, Derbyshire, Brown, Mokoena, Jeffers, Gallagher, Peter

Player to watch: Paul Gallagher

Well in all honesty it is hard to choose one. However, I`m going to jump off the fence after it left me splintered at the weekend and say that the player to watch will be Paul Gallagher.

He narrowly beats Francis Jeffers, who I fancy will start up front if he is deemed to be fit enough. However, Gallagher has long been the provincial talent to emerge since the last great batch that included Dunn, Duff and Taylor. He has been around the first team squad for the past four years now, barring his excellent season with Stoke last term. Yet he hasn`t reached the heights predicted of him.

I fancy this will be a chance for him to shine and he must do so with a blinding display.

AS Nancy Lorraine Team News:

AS Nancy aren`t without their injury problems either. A number of first team players haven`t travelled as Pablo Correa looks to take his impressive outfit to Ewood and leave with top spot.

Notable absentees include Monsef Zerka and Tosin Dosunmu. However, Abdoulaye Keita has been deemed fit and so he travelled with the squad that arrived in Blackburn yesterday evening.

AS Nancy from: Sorin, Lapeyre, Christian, Diakhaté, Puygrenier, Lécluse, Sauget, Biancalani, Gavanon, Keita, Andre Luiz, Berenguer, Guemo, Hamdani, Dia, Brison, Kim & Curbelo.

Player to watch: Sebastien Puygrenier

Sebastien Puygrenier will be the man to watch for Nancy. He has been in prolific form in recent weeks scoring three goals in the last 25 days. Impressive by anyone`s standards, even more so when you consider he is a central defender.

The talented Frenchman cuts a mean figure, tall and imposing. His partnership with well courted partner, Pape Diakhate has been one of the over-riding reasons why Nancy have been so hard to beat this season and been anything but what their name suggests.

Match Facts & Stats

This is the first time that Rovers have faced a side in Europe who have never featured in the Champions League. In fact, Nancy are the only team in the group with a worse record than Rovers.

This is the first time that Nancy have encountered English opposition in a competitive match. However, it will be the second time Rovers have come face to face with a French side having been brushed aside by Lyon in 1998/1999.

Two of Nancy`s stars have played for English clubs, Frederic Biancalani played for Walsall and Benjamin Gavanon has played at Nottingham Forest.

Ref Watch:

Gerald Lehner is the referee and he is from Austria as are his assistants.

Match Prediction:

The UEFA Cup has been Rovers` release from poor league performances and was the catalyst for our only period of form earlier in the season. Hughes and his troops will be hoping for the same kind of lift following Wednesday`s game. To top the group will be an excellent achievement considering the quality of some of the teams. In a pulsating encounter Rovers emerge as group winners following a 3-2 victory.

Next Fixtures:

Reading at the Madjeski Stadium on December 16th.




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The Journalist

Writer: Roversman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday December 12 2006

Time: 7:58PM

Your Comments

I would love an entertaining 3-2 win James, ideally Gallagher and Derbyshire will BOTH play and BOTH play UP FONT and even more ideally both score!!!
Hughes Da Man
And Tugay scores another screamer to wrap up the victory, ah if only i could be there lol
sasman
Part of me is hoping for an ex Champion league team....... the only reason being we seem to play better against the bigger named teams. Come on Rovers beat um anyway!
govtpros
I really do think we'll beat whoever we play in the next round as we are far better suited to Europe, but at the same time I don't want our European involvement used as an excuse for the league form!
Hughes Da Man
WE WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! woohoooooooooooooo wooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo champions of Europe . I wish
sasman
Didn't play well but we got the job done... JUST! We'll go VERY far in this tournament I don't doubt it for one moment.
Hughes Da Man
Can someone tell me how the young ones went, especially derbyshire. Im hoping everyone gets of Lucas Neills back right now. But once again strikers fail to score, i think it was just inside the box but still a defender ah well we won lol
sasman
Personally I don't think many people played that well really, McEveley did OK, Peter maybe not one of his better nights, Gally came in and out of the game, Derbyshire didn't have a lot of the ball but moved well and maybe should have scored when one on one (I expected him to!) and finally Eddie Nolan had a decent game, gave the ball away a couple of times but not a bad debut. I'm sure James will sum things up well in his report.
Hughes Da Man
One thing noted! Sparky didn't say we were Magnificent....... Poor in all areas really, glad Lucas popped up, however we really do need to improve. Lots of clubs have injuries and I have to say its a credit to Mark not using it as an excuse. I watched the game with a Cardiff Fan who and I quote on the 65 minute said "It looks like you're playing for a draw"! As we all know not a result that would have done anything..........
govtpros
Injuries to key players are a factor for sure but as you say govtpros (and I totally agree) you can't keep using this as you "should" have players to come in and do a job, albeit not as good as the main men. A draw wouldn't have even boosted moral would it really. A solid, hard working win would have, we arguably got two (?) out of three?!?!
Hughes Da Man
 

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