Rovers travel to Sheffield first the first time in twelve years to compete in a Premiership match. Sheffield United play hosts for their second Premiership encounter since their return to the top flight.
Mark Hughes on Tugay`s return:
“Tugay just loves playing football and he`s desperate to be involved in some shape or form and I`m sure he will be. But we`ve tried to get him up to speed of late, he`s had a couple of reserve games and we`ve had practice games as well, he`s not far away.”
Mark Hughes on Rovers:
“Performance wise we are getting up to speed now and we have a run of games now from which we feel we can pick up points. I few can do that tomorrow well and good because we`ve got a really busy period ahead. A win will settle everyone down.”
Mark Hughes on Ryan Nelsen:
“It will be a number of weeks before Ryan is available and that is obviously disappointing news. We`ve missed his steadying influence in the opening games.”
Neil Warnock on Rovers` start:
“Looking at the table I think they have more to worry about than us. That`s because the expectation at Blackburn is far greater than on us. Their expectations are for European football and being in the top six.”
Sheffield United Team News:
Defensive problems continue to bother manager Neil Warnock with midfield star, Phil Jagielka likely to continue in a centre-back position. Although he has Claude Davis, Craig Short and Leigh Bromby back in full training he feels the game has come too soon for them. This will certainly have disappointed ex-Rovers star Craig Short.
Some better news for the Blades is that Paddy Kenny is fully recovered and ready to take his place between the sticks again.
Colin Kazim-Richards could play some part in this fixture after his £150,000 switch from Brighton on deadline day.
Sheff Utd from: Kenny, Unsworth, Morgan, Jagielka, Ifill, Akinbiyi, Hulse, Webber, Quinn, Sommeil, Kozluk, Tonge, Gillespie, Wright, Armstrong, Leigertwood, Shipperley, Nade, Kazim-Richards, Bennett.
Player to watch: Rob Hulse
Sheffield United`s only goal-scorer this season will again lead the attack for the Blades. His strength and aerial ability will no doubt keep Rovers` likely centre-back pairing of Khizanishvili and Ooijer busy. His movement and ability from set plays will also provide a worry.
Rovers Team News:
Blackburn will bolster their squad with the return of veteran playmaker Tugay. However, he is likely to start on the bench with Hughes preferring to stick to the team that fought bravely against Chelsea last time out. This means that new-boy, Shabani Nonda, will join Tugay on the bench. He had problems travelling back from international duty so it is unlikely that he will start.
With the bad news this week of Ryan Nelsen`s continued absence Hughes will stick with Khizanishvili and Ooijer. Reportedly, Stephane Henchoz, who formally completed his return to Rovers on Friday lunchtime, won`t be available for this week`s game. He will be undertaking training in a bid to build up his fitness.
Other than that Mark Hughes has a full squad to choose from.
Rovers from: Friedel, Emerton, Ooijer, Khizanishvili, Neill, Bentley, Reid, Savage, Gamst, McCarthy, Roberts, Brown, Mokoena, Todd, Jeffers, Gallagher, Nonda, Tugay, Gray, Matteo, Peter, McEveley.
Player to watch: Shabani Nonda
Although he is likely to start the match from the bench, Nonda will undoubtedly have the full attention of the Rovers fans if he makes an appearance. It will be a first glimpse at what Rovers` new rapid and prolific forward has to offer.
Match Facts & Stats
Sheffield United are looking for their first Premiership win since April 1994 when they beat Newcastle United 2-0.
United are three goals shy of reaching one hundred in the Premiership.
They were the first team to score a Premier League goal, courtesy of a Brian Deane diving header.
They are currently unbeaten in six matches at Bramall Lane.
Rovers currently have the worst goal-difference in the division with minus five.
Rovers also have the worst discipline, carrying on from where we left off last season.
Head to head league totals show: Sheff United 53 wins, Blackburn 51, Draws 34
The game`s referee is Mike Dean, who is taking charge of only his second game this season. His previous fixture was the controversial match between Charlton and Bolton Wanderers. He issued five yellow cards and two red cards. So he can expect a busy afternoon monitoring two of the leagues toughest teams.
In what should prove to be a tough encounter for both sides, I feel Rovers will come out on top, as it will be the day that Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts finally hit it off. They have shown plenty of promise up to now and I feel that the arrival of Nonda may just prove to be the catalyst to get them both firing. Look for McCarthy to open the scoring followed by goals from Roberts and Nonda (coming off the bench to grab the conclusive third goal).
Next up sees Rovers return to Europe in Austria for a tricky tie against Red Bull Salzburg on Thursday.