Fulham .v. Rovers
21st Saturday April 2007
It`s very much a case of one down four to go in Rovers` unlikely assault on the European places.
Wednesday`s win against Watford applied a band aid for the gaping hole left after the devastating extra-time goal by Michael Ballack.
It was also a win much needed to keep Rovers` slim hopes of Europe alive. A lot of talk preceding this game has been offensively dismissive of Blackburn Rovers as force, even after the world witnessed our near total domination of Chelsea in the second half of the Cup final.
This won`t be an easy game but I`m confident of a positive result if the players can produce the same levels of commitment, skill and desire witnessed in the last two games. Our quality blew Watford away and that same quality could destroy Fulham and leave them perilously close to the drop zone.
Rovers have been poor in the capital this season and against the sides threatened with relegation so it is time to break that mould.
Fulham boss Lawrie Sanchez: "I don't need to be loved by my players or other people, I've proved I can make players better. It does take a certain personality to be manager.
"Some need to be liked. I'm not like that. If they like me great, if they don't then as long as I'm doing the job that's all that matters."
Mark Hughes: "It is very important we finish with a flourish and win all the games we have got left. We still have a real desire to get into Europe again and this is a really big game for us.
"If we hadn't beaten Watford we wouldn't have stood any chance whatsoever but now we are going back in against a side who are struggling for a bit of confidence and if we can get back-to-back wins it sets us up nicely."
Fulham Team News:
Former Rover, Ian Pearce will miss the fixture through injury as will Frank Quedrue. The French full-back has twisted an ankle and he will be replaced by Liam Rosenior.
Mauriz Volz will cover at right back. Michael Brown is set to continue as captain in Lawrie Sanchez`s first home game.
Fulham from: Niemi, Volz, Bocanegra, Knight, Rosenior, Brown, Radzinski, McBride, Routledge, Davies, Smertin, Christanval, Helguson, Lastuvka, John, Dempsey, Montella, Diop.
Player to watch: Anti Niemi
The stocky Finnish goalkeeper is one of the best in the Premiership and if Rovers play well he could be in for a busy afternoon. He has produced some excellent displays this season for Fulham and they will require him to pull out all the stops in these last few games so that The Cottagers comfortably stay in the Premiership.
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Mark Hughes is set to keep faith with the same starting eleven who have performed so well in the last two games. This means another chance for Jason Roberts to prove to Rovers fans that he has what it takes to be a big player at the club. He has two in two and will be keen to make it three in three.
Rovers from: Friedel, Emerton, Nelsen, Samba, Warnock, Bentley, Dunn, Mokoena, Pedersen, Roberts, McCarthy, Enckelman, Tugay, Henchoz, Derbyshire, Peter, Khizanishvili, Gallagher, Berner, Todd.
Player to watch: David Dunn
There are so many to choose from at the moment with a number of individuals standing out. Messes David Bentley, David Dunn and Jason Roberts have been the driving force in the last two games with admiral cameos from Ryan Nelsen, Christopher Samba and Benni McCarthy. With that in mind it is hard to say who will stand out. However, Dunny is getting closer to that first goal and I feel it will arrive on Saturday.
Match Facts & Stats
Rovers are looking for their fourth 'double` victims of the season.
Fulham have been 'doubled` three times already this season.
It has been 20 Premiership games since Rovers last drew.
Brad Friedel has now made 109 consecutive appearances.
Graeme Poll is refereeing Saturday`s game; enough said.
This week we have a guest predictor. Barry Watson from Morocco, a lifelong Rovers fan gives his view of the game… "Sanchez will not want to lose face with defeat and the players will be playing for the memory of Chris Coleman. However, Sparky has now instilled a confidence in the team. The players have tasted Europe and they will be keen to add to that flavour. He will be reminding the players that, but for an inconsistent start, we would be challenging for a Champions League spot. Rovers to emerge with a 2-1 victory." Well you heard it hear first!!!
Charlton at Ewood next on Saturday 28 April.