Date: 4th November 2006 at 12:19pm
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Rovers travel to the midlands to face Martin O` Neill`s resolute Aston Villa side who will be desperately seeking a return to form after their first league defeat of the season at Anfield against Liverpool last weekend.

Rovers themselves will be looking to improve league form following two consecutive defeats in the top flight. Last week`s dour performance at West Ham meant Rovers dropped to 11th in the division.

Villa, despite going unbeaten for so long, only sit in seventh place due to their penchant for draws. They have mustered just three wins this season, the same amount as Rovers, but have drawn six of their ten league matches.

Rovers will be looking to tighten up at the back after keeping just a single clean sheet in their last six fixtures. This, combined with Villa`s blunt attack led by the profligate Juan Pablo Angel, and it would appear another draw is on the menu.

Rovers don`t seem to have a problem scoring but have only mustered three away from home this season, culminating in a single away victory. Villa are solid as O`Neill looks to restore some parity to one of England`s sleeping giants. Their early season flair has been thwarted by the injury to Luke Moore, but still pose a threat with the creative minds of Stilian Petrov, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Gareth Barry. These will be the players that O` Neill will be building around.

Another player of interest in this fixture is Chris Sutton, the former Championship winning Rover and current Villa employee. O` Neill has been quoted this week saying he believes Sutton can follow the example of Teddy Sheringham (another player heavily linked with both Rovers and Villa) and play until he is 40. He is yet to score for the Villain`s but he will see this as a golden opportunity and O` Neil may start him for that reason.

Mark Hughes has to contend with a mounting injury list as fate seems to play it`s part in obstructing Rovers from a good season.

Vital Quotes:

Mark Hughes on Aston Villa: ‘Since they have had a change of management with Martin O` Neil coming in this season they have been on a great run of results. We’ve always found it hard going to Villa Park and that will be certainly the case this time as there is a buzz and anticipation about the place. But teams of the like of Aston Villa we have to overcome.

Mark Hughes on injuries: “We`ve picked up a number of injuries recently and that is going to happen. There are going to be times during the season where injuries will bite. We pride ourselves on how we prepare the players, but you will always get injuries. Still, we think we have got a strong enough squad to cope.

Gareth Barry on form: “Three points against Blackburn will be the perfect response, but we can`t just go into it thinking we`re going to get them. Blackburn are a good team with a very good manager and he`ll have them fired up.

Aston Villa Team News:

Chris Sutton is still pushing for full match fitness but may feature after his impressive cameo display at Liverpool. O ‘Neill is likely to continue with Milan Baros and Juan Pablo Angel up front.

Avin McCann is also pushing for a starting birth after missing the last three fixtures.

Aston Villa from: Sorensen, Taylor, Hughes, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Laursen, Bouma, Davis, Petrov, McCann, Agathe, Barry, Osbourne, Berger, Angel, Baros, Sutton, Whittingham, Gardner, Agbonlahor, Djemba-Djemba.

Player to watch: Stilian Petrov

Rovers were reportedly interested in the gifted Bulgarian but never pursued their interest with a firm bid. Villa did and since he has arrived he has looked sharp and seems to have adapted to life in the premiership well.

He would have been the ideal replacement for Tugay as he demonstrates wonderful vision and passing and has been one of Villa`s creative spurs this term.

He will be pulling the strings and Rovers will have to hope that their decision not to sign him doesn`t back-fire.

Blackburn Rovers Team News:

Mark Hughes is unlikely to risk Brett Emerton. The explosive Australian is still struggling with his hamstring. He joins Robbie Savage who is definitely out of this fixture and will be missing for the next three to four weeks.

Aaron Mokoena is likely to deputise for Savage having played so well in midweek. The only other possible change that Hughes may make could see Nonda dropped to the bench in place of either Paul Gallagher or Francis Jeffers, both of whom impressed as substitutes in the mid week victory against Basel.

Rovers from: Friedel, Brown, Neill, Emerton, Khizanishvili, Ooijer, Todd, Henchoz, Gray, McEveley, Bentley, Tugay, Mokoena, Peter, Pedersen, Nonda, McCarthy, Jeffers, Gallagher.

Player to watch: Aaron Mokoena

He will be key in doing two very important jobs. He will have to suppress the attacking prowess of Petrov and at the same time give Tugay enough leverage to play his game. If Mokoena can do this well then Rovers should be able to create some chances and it will be down to the attackers to take them.

Match Facts & Stats

Villa have not suffered back to back defeats in 11 Premiership outings, since losing three on the spin between 18 and 29 April against Wigan (a), Manchester City (h) and Liverpool (a).
Villa are pressing for a first win in five League outings.
Villa have won three and drawn six League games, prior to the defeat at Anfield.
Villa have scored one goal in each of the last four Premiership matches.
Only failed to score in only one League game this season (0-0 at Watford on 16 September).
Not conceded more than a single goal in 11 home top tier matches, since a 1-2 loss to Newcastle on 11 February.
Rovers have kept only one clean sheet in six top flight outings, but none in the last four.
The first and most recent games of this Premiership season were defeats at Portsmouth and West Ham – the only occasions Blackburn have returned to Ewood Park without at least a point this season.
Rovers have failed to convert all three penalties awarded to them in Premiership matches this season (as have Sheffield United).
Conceded more penalties in Premiership matches than any other club, with the exception of Bolton. Both have had five spot kicks awarded against them.
The Ewood Park club have conceded double as many goals as they have scored on their Premiership travels this term (three scored, six shipped), and have only one League victory on the road (0-1 at Middlesbrough on 23 September).

Ref Watch:

The referee is Howard Webb. He has already over-seen a Rovers match, their 2-1 win over Wigan. He has issued 41 yellow cards and 2 red.

Match Prediction:

This will be a typically tight affair, in the sense that it will be closely fought. Goals will be on the menu as both teams look to be aggressive in a bid to turn around league form. A 2-2 draw will be the outcome with Villa scoring first. I expect to see a penalty in there somewhere. At least Rovers don`t have to fear penalties anymore after they finally broke their voodoo on Thursday.

Next Fixtures:

Manchester United at Ewood Park on Saturday 11th November 2006 at 5:15.


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