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Blackburn Club Focus – Rovers looking for first consecutive clean sheets since 2010

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By Mushtaq Quraishi

Monday 19 March 2012

Fresh from their well-deserved 2-0 win over relegation rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend, Blackburn Rovers will be hoping to keep back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since 2010 when they face a rejuvenated Sunderland side on Tuesday night. Rovers’ fans will have to cast their minds back to the final game of the 2009-2010 season (1-0 victory at Aston Villa) and the opening game of the 2010-2011 campaign (1-0 home win against Everton), which was the last time the Lancashire outfit recorded two consecutive shutouts. A win at Ewood Park on Tuesday would provide Steve Kean and his side with a huge boost as they aim to avoid relegation.

Sunderland however will be no pushovers, as Rovers found out first-hand when they slumped to a cruel, last-gasp 2-1 loss at the Stadium of Light back in December, in what happened to be Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge of the then struggling club. In fact, the Black Cats went into that fixture with just 11 points from their opening 14 matches, while Rovers had collected just 10 points from the same number of games. Now, just nine weeks later, Rovers are a massive 12 points behind their upcoming visitors. Replacing the manager early on clearly made all the difference for Sunderland. Blackburn’s Indian owners Venky’s did not take such a gamble and are instead still confident that Kean will steer the former Premier League champions to safety.

For now, the table looks a lot healthier for Rovers’ fans than it did a couple of months, or even a couple of weeks ago. Blackburn have spent much of the season in the dreaded drop zone, but given that Bolton Wanderers’ fixture against Aston Villa has now been postponed due to Fabrice Muamba’s ill health, Rovers will not drop back into the bottom three this week, even if they slip to defeat against Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers win. However, that could all change next weekend, when Blackburn are due to face local rivals Bolton in a crucial Premier League six-pointer at the Reebok Stadium.

Meanwhile, Kean remains adamant that attacking midfielders Ruben Rochina and Simon Vukcevic are still in his plans. Former Barcelona youngster Rochina has played just 132 minutes of top-flight football in the last three months, while Montenegrin star Vukcevic has not made a league appearance since the 1-1 draw with Liverpool back in December.

But according to the Lancashire Telegraph, Kean said: “They are in competition with other lads who are playing very well at the moment.” He added: “Simon is ready to take his chance when he gets it but at the moment there is that competition for places and he knows that. All he can do is keep doing what he has been doing and when gets his chance I have no doubt he will ready to take it.” And on Rochina’s situation, the Scotsman said: “I had a long chat with him and he is still positive and on his way up again. Both players are ready and want to be a part of things.”

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Blackburn v Sunderland

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