Well the UEFA Cup trial starts here, in Finland. How far will Rovers go this time, only time will tell? But one thing that should be certain, is that the team should be in the hat for the first round following this two legged affair against mid-table MyPa.
Rovers go into the match with confidence high following the win on the opening weekend of the Premiership season. Granted that win came at a cost, namely the fitness of Benni McCarthy, who hasn`t travelled, but it does mean that confidence is high amongst the squad and there is one thing that we are sure of, there are plenty of strikers to choose from at Ewood these days.
Roque Santa Cruz`s debut will go down in Rovers folklore so he will be in contention for his first start. As will Matt Derbyshire, scorer of that wonder-goal of a winner against Middlesbrough.
All the talk is of Rovers, and rightly so, as we are expected to progress but if we fail to show MyPa respect we could be in for another Trelleborgs fiasco.
Alas, long gone are the days of Rovers sides meekly surrendering in Europe as Mark Hughes has instilled a determination and respect for opponents in his players that ensure nothing but a committed team effort is produced.
Another of these team efforts will see Rovers tidy this tie up in the first leg, which is something I`m sure Hughes will be looking to do.
The second leg, if it is a mere formality, which has to be the objective for the first leg, could prove to be an unwanted fixture with the games already starting to pile up. If Rovers can produce a confident win in Finland then the return leg at Ewood will surely see a number of squad players taste first team action in a bid to cement a place.
However, we are getting ahead of ourselves here and we must focus on the game at hand.
Former MyPa coach on being drawn against Rovers: “Blackburn are probably the toughest opponents we could have got. It’s always a real pleasure to play against really big clubs though.‘
Mark Hughes on preparation: “We’re pleased with the stadium, it is a good stadium which is important for us and we’re looking forward to the game. We’ve had them watched in their last two games and we’ve been impressed with them because they look stronger than the team we played in the last round and we have to be very professional in our approach, and make sure that we get the job done.“
Hughes on Rovers` prospects: “We can’t afford to underestimate them, but first and foremost we’ve got to get the job done here if we can, then we can start to look forward to our game on Sunday against Arsenal. But I just feel that if we approach it in the right way and get the job done then we’ll have too much for them .”
MyPa Team News:
Despite digging around it has been difficult finding team news for MyPa.
Player to watch: Mikko Hyyrynen
Mikko Hyyrynen is MyPa`s leading goal-scorer so far this season and the forward will be looking to add to his tally. He is clearly a player the Finnish side rest most of their attacking hopes on.
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Benni McCarthy didn`t travel with the team so he joins Steven Reid, Bruno Berner, Sergio Peter and Stephane Henchoz at home in the doctors office.
Roque Santa Cruz and Matt Derbyshire both staked a claim for a starting position by scoring in the last match and Hughes may even decide to play both as Jason Roberts telepathic partner, Benni, is out.
Rovers from: Friedel, Brown, Enckelman, Ooijer, Nelsen, Samba, Warnock, Khizanishvili, Emerton, Mokoena, Tugay, Dunn, Bentley, Savage, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, Rigters, Roberts, Derbyshire, Gallagher, Olsson.
Player to watch: Roque Santa Cruz
All eyes are going to once again be on Roque Santa Cruz. He has his first goal for Rovers nicely tucked away so his confidence will be high. He will be hoping to some excellent service from the wingers by both David Bentley and Morten Gamst Pedersen. If they can get balls into the box for Santa Cruz, he will fancy his chances of adding another goal to his early season tally.
Match Facts & Stats
This is the first time Rovers have faced Finnish opposition, but not the first time MyPa have challenged an English side.
The referee is Frenchman Olivier Thual and his assistants also hail from France.
I expect Hughes to start with Roque Santa Cruz and Matt Derbyshire, maybe even Maceo Rigters, but he won`t be taking this game lightly. The emphasis will be to get wide and deliver as many balls into the box for Cruz to head at goal or set up Derbyshire, who will undoubtedly be making a nuisance of himself. If we can score the early goal, which I doubt we will go gung-ho for then I fancy us to score a handful.
I`m going to stick my neck out there and say Rovers put in a tidy, professional performance that will see us emerge with a 3-1 win.
Arsenal come to fortress Ewood on Sunday for the Rovers` first game at home.