Basel are in town as Rovers look to maintain their early European momentum with their second win in Group E.
Rovers currently sit at the top of Group E courtesy of a resolute and dominant display and David Bentley`s late winner in Poland on match day one.
Basel have had a resurgence in form of late in the league but still look suspect away from home. This therefore provides Rovers with a great chance of securing a six-point start to the group that will put them within touching distance of the last 32.
Fortunes have taken a dip for Rovers over the past two weeks, in fact ever since their impressive display in Poland. The team look stretched as an unfortunate injury list begins to mount.
However, Mark Hughes will be looking for all of his experienced players to put in a performance on Thursday. Already the expertise of individuals such as Tugay, Andre Ooijer and Benni McCarthy has made an impression on this year`s UEFA Cup.
It will be the first time that Rovers have faced European opposition from Switzerland but not the first time Basel have come across an English side.
Basel have some explosive talent, none more so than Mladen Petric and generally play in quite an open formation. This shouldn`t be any different on Thursday night as Christian Gross will be looking for the win after dropping two points at home against Feyenoord two weeks ago.
Mark Hughes on Rovers fans: “When we qualified by beating Salzburg, we had almost 19,000 fans in the ground. The supporters were magnificent that night and the atmosphere was incredible. Their support does give the players a lift and it would be fantastic if they can recreate the same atmosphere against Basel.“
Mark Hughes on the fixture: “If we can win our home games it will put us in great shape in the group. If we can force the issue and have a good tempo against Basle that will help us. But we know this is a difficult fixture. Basle are a decent side with a good European pedigree. We have to respect their qualities.‘
Mark Hughes on injured players: “A number of guys have re-joined the squad, including Chris Nonda and Morten Pedersen, but Brett Emerton won`t be involved as he`s still struggling.“
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Mark Hughes is definitely without rejuvenated full-back Brett Emerton who is still struggling from the hamstring strain that forced him out of the West Ham defeat.
Also struggling are three other key players; Robbie Savage, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Shabani Nonda. All three will have late checks before Hughes makes a decision. Savage is the only one likely to feature.
Jason Roberts has joined Ryan Nelsen and Steven Reid on the long-term injury list after he broke his metatarsal bone.
Rovers from: Friedel, Brown, Enckelman, Neill, Khizanishvilli, Oojer, Todd, Gray, McEveley, Bentley, Tugay, Mokoena, Savage, Peter, Pedersen, Nonda, McCarthy, Jeffers, Gallagher.
Player to watch: David Bentley
The boy can do no wrong at the moment and he seems to be excelling on the European stage. Four goals already this season and he will be eager to add to that on Thursday night. His movement, cutting in from the wing is of great use for Rovers as is his range of passing and vision. He certainly is learning from Tugay.
F C Basel Team News:
Christian Gross returns to England for the second time this year with a strong squad to choose from. Mladen Petric is likely to continue up front after his man of the match display at the weekend. He will be partnered with Edurado, who is enjoying a good season in Switzerland and scored their goal against Feyenoord.
Player to watch: Mladen Petric
The striker has been re-born this season after his career stuttered a little in recent years. He has found his predatory instinct again and is a real hand-full for defenders. His movement is particularly good and he is comfortable on the ball so Rovers will have to ensure they don`t afford him too much space and time.
Match Facts & Stats
Rovers are currently on a three match unbeaten run in Europe.
This is Rovers 20th European fixture.
Benni McCarthy is just one goal short of 30 in the UEFA Cup
This will be Basel`s 114th European game.
They have recently passed the 200 goals mark in European football
This is the tenth time Basel have faced English competition. They have only won one of these fixtures, drawing four and losing five.
They have never won in England.
Oleh Orekhov is the referee and he resides in the Ukraine along with his assistants and fourth official.
This will be a tight game between a side out of form and one back in form. Rovers are certainly the side out of form but two weeks ago this fixture would have had home win written all over it. Despite a recent dip in form and Basel`s impressive away win at Grasshoppers at the weekend it will be Rovers who leave with the win on Thursday.
Rovers` squad seems stretched at the moment but there is the possibility that some key players could return. That aside players like Francis Jeffers will be eager to make the most of any opportunity. Jeffers himself is due a goal after some decent form early on in his Rovers career.
A thoroughly pulsating encounter will finish with a Rovers 4-2 win. It will be an open game with both sides looking to attack and neither side has a resolute defence so chances will be created and a fair few will be taken. McCarthy and Bentley will be the difference.
Aston Villa away on Sunday 5th Novemebr 2006 at 15:00