Former Rovers favourite Chris Coleman brings his buoyant Fulham side to Ewood Park for the first Saturday afternoon kick-off at Ewood this season, looking to build on their impressive midweek result against Arsenal.
Every Rovers fan fondly remembers last season`s clash between the two side`s as it was the stage for two of the goals of the season. The critics deemed Tugay`s the better but he won`t be able to repeat that or the strike against Tottenham last time out due to suspension.
One man who will be eager to produce such quality is Morten Gamst Pedersen. The Norwegian is yet to hit the heights of last season in what has been a subdued and bitty campaign to date. With Tugay`s absence, Hughes will be looking to Gamst and David Bentley to provide the creative edge that is often lacking when the mercurial Turk doesn`t play.
Rovers currently hover above the relegation zone thanks to a marginally superior goal difference. This game will be viewed as winnable and should Rovers` luck take a change for the positive then it should be a win. Very little has been wrong with Rovers` recent displays, barring some poor halves, and another similar display at Ewood on Saturday should be too much for Fulham.
Matches involving Fulham tend to leak goals so Rovers will be looking find the back of the net more than once for only the third time this season in the league.
Mark Hughes on Fulham: “Chris has done a great job, he is one of those managers who you would probably hear a lot more about if he was considered to be in line for the England job. His team are playing exceptionally well at the moment.‘
Mark Hughes on more injury problems: “We`ve got a few concerns, as Franny Jeffers and Zurab (Khizanishvili) have both picked up groin injuries early in the week and they have to be viewed as very doubtful.“
Chris Coleman on the match: “We can’t rest on what we did against Arsenal and we won’t. We’re going into a game three days later with a spring in our step. At Blackburn, we’ll be back down to earth. Arsenal is finished, it doesn’t get us any points on Saturday. We have got to concentrate on a tough Blackburn team who need the points.‘
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Mark Hughes welcomes back want-away captain, Lucas Neill. He is likely to replace the much-improved Michael Gray at left back.
However, Hughes has a number of new absentees to contend with. Khizanishvili and Jeffers are both struggling to be fit after picking up groin injuries. Also missing is the midfield magician, Tugay. He is suspended for Saturday`s game after his contentious red card against Tottenham in the last league fixture almost two weeks ago.
It is a particular blow to lose Jeffers because he looked lively and impressive against Spurs and with Shabani Nonda struggling for form it could have been his chance to impress from the start.
One small bonus is the fact that the players have had almost ten days without a game, meaning other first team members have had a chance to improve their fitness.
Rovers from: Friedel, Brown, Neill, Emerton, Khizanishvili, Ooijer, Todd, Gray, Henchoz, McEveley, Bentley, Mokoena, Savage, Peter, Pedersen, Nonda, McCarthy, Jeffers, Gallagher.
Player to watch: Morten Gamst Pedersen
Everyone at Blackburn is still waiting for Gamst`s season to really take off. This game could be the spur, as he will undoubtedly be looking to replicate his goal in this corresponding fixture last season.
In recent games he has shown more grit and hard work but the flair is still missing. It doesn`t seem to have affected his confidence as he isn`t scared to thrash a volley at goal but he just needs one to go in.
Fulham Team News:
Former Rovers Ian Pearce is back in Chris Coleman`s plans after serving his one-match ban. He could replace Phillippe Christanval although this isn`t guaranteed when considering Fulham`s stalwart defensive display against the Gunners.
Mid-week goal hero, Tomasz Radzinski will have a late fitness test after an unfortunate collision with an advertising hoarding.
Fulham from: Niemi, Volz, , Knight, Pearce, Rosenior, Brown, Boa Morte, Radzinski, Diop, C Jensen, McBride, Helguson, Christanval, John, Routledge, Zakuani, Lastuvka.
Player to watch: Brian McBride
He was the danger man last season stooping to score with his head and he will continue to lead Fulham`s line. He opened the scoring in mid-week and has continued to score regularly, if not spectacularly, during his time with the cottagers.
Match Facts & Stats
These two sides have never drawn a Premiership match.
Rovers have drawn two and lost two of the last four in all competitions, netting just one goal in the process.
Rovers have picked up two points from the last available 18, via 1-1 draws at Liverpool and home to Tottenham.
Rovers have failed to score in three of the last five League matches, and netted more than a single goal in only two Premiership games this season.
And they are a brace shy of totalling 400 home Premier League goals all time.
On the Premiership’s longest current run without a clean sheet, of seven matches, since a 0-1 victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside on 23 September – only their second shut-out of the League campaign.
Blackburn players have been shown more cards in Premiership matches this term than any other club (33 – two reds, 31 yellow), disregarding the dismissal of Andy Todd against Portsmouth. That red card was later rescinded.
Fulham are sitting four points below a top four Champions League berth.
They have conceded 21 Premiership goals. Only rock bottom Charlton have also leaked that many. Conceded the opening goal in nine Premiership matches. Only West Ham have a worse record. The opposition has scored first in 10 of their games.
Fulham have only managed one clean sheet in 10 Premiership games.
Premiership matches involving Fulham have generated more goals than any other club, with the exception of Manchester United. The Red Devils’ 15 matches have yielded 40 (33 for, seven against), the Cottagers’ 37 (16 for, 21 against).
Used just 19 players in Premiership matches this season. Only Bolton have fielder fewer (18).
Without an away League victory in five. Drawn four and lost one on the road since their only away win in this Premiership campaign (1-2 against Newcastle at St James’ Park on 9 September).
Steve Bennett is the match official. He has dished out three red cards and 38 yellows this season, although it is the first time he has took charge of a Rovers match.
There will be goals in this fixture. Rovers having been getting it right recently but not putting the ball in the back of the net and even when we do the officials seem to have something to say about it.
Fixtures involving Fulham always have goals in them and the two sides have never drawn in the Premiership. This game won`t be an exception to that statistic. Rovers will control the game and if it finally clicks then the goals will come. Nonda just needs that next goal to regain his confidence as does Gamst and both will be happy at 5 o`clock on Saturday evening. A goal from Benni McCarthy for good measure as well will see this as the afternoon when Rovers reverse their league form.
Fulham`s defence is vulnerable at the moment due to injuries and Rovers have to take advantage of that. Aaron Mokoena is likely to partner Robbie Savage in midfield, although there is an outside chance Bentley could adopt the central role with either Paul Gallagher or Sergio Peter coming in on the wing. Rovers 3-0
A midweek fixture away to Charlton follows this, before Newcastle visit Ewood Park next Saturday.