It all starts here, the decisive week mark two. Last week was billed just that but courtesy of some gritty and never say die performances, Rovers do it all again in the same three competitions in a week.
This game is set up to be a quality spectacle on the strength of the first leg and the score-line. The tie is perfectly balanced at 3-2 Leverkusen, but how important are those away goals going to be?
It could be a very different story but for Shabani Nonda`s late perfectly executed volley. Had that ball not crashed in off the crossbar then Rovers could be facing an uphill battle on Thursday. As it is the 3-2 scoreline ensures Rovers have to attack but are still very much in the tie.
Mark Hughes on Rovers` attitude: “We need to win the game so we’ll look to be very much on the front foot. We are at home and we have to ask questions of them. I feel we’ll create chances, we’ve already proved that we can score against them.
“I get the feeling that the guys are really looking forward to the game, there’s a real positive feeling throughout the camp . If we’ll get one then maybe we’ll get a couple.“
Hughes on Gamst: “It is no reflection on anyone else, but it is fair to say that we have missed Morten. He’s a strong young man with great physical capabilities and his stamina is fantastic.
“Physically he does more work than anybody and he runs further than anyone else on our team. On top of that he is a goal threat – his set-play work is as good as anybody in the Premier League I feel.“
Stephen Warnock on the game: “We know we can do it and that we have it in us to beat Bayer Leverkusen. They are definitely beatable, but they are a good team and they’ve got good strikers with good movement. But if we play our game the way we know we can we’ll should beat them.“
Bayer boss Michael Skibbe on Rovers: “ Blackburn is a very strong team, they have a very good defence and they are very good at attacking very quickly. I rate McCarthy and Nonda as very strong and Bentley is a dangerous player, but especially Pedersen, he has shown before his injury how dangerous he can be going forward and he’ll be a danger to us.“
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Rovers are boosted by the return to fitness of Morten Gamst Pedersen, Tugay and Benni McCarthy. The latter still has a question mark over his head but is likely to feature. The return of Gamst will be the biggest boost.
However, Chris Samba and Bruno Berner are ineligible, and Aaron Mokoena is suspended.
Rovers from: Friedel, Emerton, Henchoz, Khizanishvili, Nelsen, Todd, Warnock, Bentley, Tugay, Dunn, Pedersen, McCarthy, Roberts, Nonda, Jeffers, Brown, Derbyshire, Gallagher, Peter.
Player to watch: Morten Gamst Pedersen
His return from injury is timely. Before his hamstring strain he was on red-hot fire and Rovers need players in that sort of form firing on Thursday.
His threat from set-pieces and all round contribution from the left will give Rovers an extra edge and something new for Leverkusen to have to contend with. Everyone connected with Rovers will be hoping he is fully fit and can influence the game like he did in his previous seven before injury.
Bayer Leverkusen Team News:
The main news for Leverkusen is Juan returns to their defence. The uncompromising Brazilian`s absence in the opening leg was noticeable. He provides a commanding and experienced element to their back line; much like Ryan Nelsen does for Rovers. Gal-scorer Callsen-Bracker will make way.
Andei Voronin is in the squad and may use this visit as a chance to see the Liverpool area, the area he will be residing in next season.
Player to watch: Bernd Schneider
He was the danger man in the first leg and will be once more for a counter attacking Leverkusen side. His movement between wings often caused confusion in the Rovers defence and his ability to pick out a killer pass makes him a real threat to Brad Friedel`s goal.
Additionally, like the returning Gamst, he is deadly from set-pieces. It was his whipped free-kick that produced the opening goal last Wednesday and Rovers will have to be careful not to concede any needless free-kicks around the area.
Match Facts & Stats
View the highlights of Rovers` last visit to the Emirates. ‘ target=’blank’> View the highlights of the first leg here.
Leverkusen have not won away from home in Europe so far this season, drawing two and losing two.
Leverkusen`s win over Rovers is their only success in their last five games.
David Bentley and Benni McCarthy are Rovers` top scorers in this year`s UEFA Cup.
The winners will face either Lens or Panathanikos. Lens are leading 3-1 from the first leg in France.
Alberto Undiano Mallenco is the match referee on Thursday. His assistants are all from Spain too.
Rovers will be aggressive from the kick-off as they need goals. Chances were created in the first leg, the kind that should have been converted, and chances of that nature will be presented again, only this time Rovers` front men have to take them.
The return of Morten Gamst Pedersen is hogging the headlines but he could be key in on Thursday night. He provides Rovers with another dimension to their attack and a better balance to the midfield.
With Mokoena`s absence Hughes is likely to start with Dunn and Tugay, who was rested for the F. A. Cup tie, which will provide more attacking options.
Leverkusen`s style of play suits the counter attack but they will be in two minds whether or not to defend their lead or look for goals. Rovers have to ensure they force the German`s back and take early chances.
If Rovers can nick an early goal they will go on to comfortably win the game and the tie.
Portsmouth are next up for Rovers at Ewood Park on Sunday.