Rival for Survival – Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn’s opponents Wolves were the last team to be previewed ahead of Sunday, now it’s time for Rovers themselves.

How they will line up

After their draw against the champions last week, Rovers will hope to name an unchanged side from the one that faced Manchester United. Injury niggles had threatened the participation of Chris Samba, Jermaine Jones and Junior Hoilett, but they should be fit enough to start at Molineux.

This will again mean Rovers can boast a strong bench, with Roque Santa Cruz, Benjani, Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Dunn all at Steve Kean’s disposal should he require them. One man who may come into the 18 is Mame Diouf, who was unable to be in the squad against his parent club last week

Key Man
In the absence of the injured Ryan Nelsen, it is up to 19 year old Phil Jones to deputise at centre back. Since breaking into the first team set-up last season, Jones has demonstrated his class, as well as his versatility. Jones stifled Blackpool’s midfield at Bloomfield Road all the way back in September, but has also proven adept in the heart of the defence. With Wolves sure to be going for the win, Jones will need to support Samba in defence to get them the draw that would all but assure their safety.
Their Opponents – Wolverhampton Wanderers
Rovers’ opponents on Sunday, Wolves, were covered on the blog in the previous article. Read it here.

What’s Blackburn’s Form Like?
Blackburn have averaged a point a game over the most recent six results, with a win and three draws. However, Kean’s side have been on a steady decline shortly after his appointment, with only a solitary league victory since January – that win coming at Ewood Park against a Bolton side missing several key players. Rovers have been picking up the odd point here and there though, drawing six of their last 11 matches.
Blackburn have struggled away from home this season and so a trip to Wolves wouldn’t be their ideal fixture. Rovers have lost two thirds of their away fixtures so far this term, winning just three away from Ewood Park. In fact Blackburn haven’t won away in 2011 which goes to show the size of the task facing them this weekend.

Up the ‘Pool verdict

It’s fortunate for Rovers that they had so many points before the managerial change as they might otherwise be in a lot more trouble than they currently find themselves. Already with 40 points and a superior goal difference to all the sides in the relegation scrap, it would take a lot to relegate them. A point should see them home, and even a defeat would require two of Wigan, Blackpool and Birmingham to win in order for Rovers to drop into the Championship. I’m tipping Rovers to be beaten at Wolves, but still fancy Kean’s side to live to fight another day, due to results elsewhere.

That was the final part of this series looking at ‘Pool’s relegation rivals going into the final day. I’ll be back to dissect the aftermath, whatever happens on Sunday. Up the ‘Pool!