Rovers .v. Villa
7th April 2007
Back at Ewood but will it be back to winning ways? David Dunn certainly hopes so and his sentiments will be echoed by the many Rovers fans gracing Ewood on Saturday. However, I must admit that my mind is elsewhere and could this be the case for the squad?
Sunday 15 April looms large and after an abundance of semi-final disappointments since the 2002 League Cup success, one can`t help but feel it is our time in football`s most prestigious cup competition.
Alas, enough of the F. A. Cup dream, we will save that for next week, which if the players can do the same then I`m confident three points can be achieved.
Aston Villa travel to Ewood Park off the back of some dire form that has seen a promising early season descend into mid-table mediocrity and distant whispers of relegation. They are much changed side from the resolute winners who took all three points at Villa Park earlier in the season, then again so are Rovers.
Two defeats in a row is not the best preparation for the biggest game of Rovers` season and a third would be disastrous, something that Mark Hughes will be reminding his players about.
David Dunn is slowly regaining his form and his first ever Rovers goal came against Villa all of eight years ago, hopefully he can repeat that feat with his first for the club since his return.
Blackburn boss Mark Hughes: 'We have got games left that we can get maximum points from so we need to go on a decent run. If we are realistic we probably need to win five we probably need to win five out of seven games to give us any kind of chance. They are difficult games but given the opposition we are up against I feel we have a chance to put a run together.'
David Dunn on fitness and form: 'I have settled in really well and I am more pleased than anything to be fit still. Everyone knew that my injury problems were the big question mark over me so to have featured in every game since I have been back here is great. I know there is more to come from my play, which hasn't been as good as I would have liked so far, but fitness feels good.'
Aston Villa defender Olof Mellberg: 'We have to raise the level a bit over 90 minutes and hopefully get a good run going until the end of the season. We have some winnable games. But we need to play well for 90 minutes to win games. It is not enough to have a poor first 45 minutes and play well for the second half. We need to be more consistent."
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Mark Hughes only has concerns over the fitness of Zurab Khizanishvili. The Georgian has been struggling for fitness all week. Two other players who missed training at the beginning of the week, Aaron Mokoena and Benni McCarthy are both expected to be fit to feature. In fact Benni will be keen to play to re-discover his scoring touch.
Rovers were dealt a blow this week with the news that Robbie Savage will definitely not feature again this season after he suffered a lapse in his rehabilitation.
Rovers from: Friedel, Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Khizanishvili, Warnock, Bentley, Dunn, Tugay, Mokoena, Pedersen, Derbyshire, McCarthy, Peter, Roberts, Enckelman, Nonda, Henchoz.
Player to watch: David Bentley
David Bentley`s return will give Rovers a boost and it could be his ebullience that will push Rovers onto a win. Direct, skilful, attacking football has been provided from the right by Bentley this season and was missing against United last Saturday. He is still keen to impress to win a place in the England squad, and although he has already done enough in many people`s opinions he still has work to do to convince McClaren.
Aston Villa Team News:
Martin O` Neil was dealt a blow this week when it became apparent that he will be without his talismanic front-man, John Carew. He is likely to miss the Easter programme which will mean a change of tactics for Villa. There are also slight question marks over the fitness of Ashley Young and Gary Cahill.
Villa from: Sorensen, Taylor, Bardsley, Hughes, Mellberg, Laursen, Bouma, Samuel, Agbonlahor, Petrov, McCann, Barry, Davis, Osbourne, Gardner, Moore, Angel, Maloney, Young, Berger, Cahill.
Player to watch: Ashley Young
Gareth Barry is an exceptional talent but he has gone off the boil a little recently whereas Ashley Young is yet to explode into life for Villa. That is why Rovers will need to keep an eye on him and his pace. Rovers don`t have the most quick defence so this could mean a slightly deeper back line to neutralise the threat of Young and Agbonlahor.
Match Facts & Stats
This is Rovers` 500th Premiership game and their 250th at Ewood Park.
Villa are the draw specialists this season in the top-flight whereas Rovers have only ended a game level on four occasions.
It is now 18 top-flight games since Rovers last drew.
Rovers` record in the Prem to date: Won 202, drawn 129 and lost 168 of the previous 499 Premier League matches.
Martin Atkinson is the man in the middle on Saturday. He has so far produced 56 yellow cards and 3 reds in his 18 games this season. Both times he has refereed Rovers the blue and white halves have emerged victorious.
This is definitely a game that Rovers can win, given the nature of the opponents. However, a beady little eye may already be on next Sunday and this could hamper their home performance on Saturday. Should Rovers be fully focused on the fixture then a comfortable win will ensue but the likelihood is that full concentration will be lacking and for that reason there is only one result I can plump for and that is…a draw!
The big one at Old Trafford. Chelsea in the F A Cup semi-final on Sunday 15 April 2007