Club Focus – Blackburn – Derbyshire to feature against previous employers

An exciting week for Blackburn Rovers comes to its climax when the Lancashire outfit face Birmingham City at St Andrews. Rovers are currently edging ever closer to an anticipated takeover by Indian tycoon Ahasan Ali Syed, who suggested earlier this week that he would make £100m available to boss Sam Allardyce to spend in the transfer market. Any such investment would bring a smile to the Ewood Park crowd, who are desperate to witness their home side revisit the glory days of 1995. Of course, it is highly unlikely that Syed’s promised millions will bring the league title back to Blackburn, however significant investment could see the Blue and Whites once again contending for a much-coveted place in Europe.

After a pleasing opening day victory against a highly-regarded Everton side last weekend, Big Sam takes his side to the Midlands, ready to face another team who finished comfortably in a mid-table position last season. Alex McLeish did a wonderful job at Birmingham last campaign and will be looking for another good league finish this time around too.

The Blues bravely fought back to force a deserved draw against Sunderland last time out and will host Rovers this weekend, hoping for a repeat of the corresponding score line last season, where they sealed a 2-1 victory over Big Sam’s men. Just like their opponents, Birmingham’s home form last campaign was impressive and they will need to maintain that admirable standard should they wish to finish in the top half of the Premier League.

Former Birmingham man David Dunn seems likely to miss out on the game, having come off injured early on against Everton. The influential attacking-midfielder is vital to any success Blackburn have this coming season and his fitness is of key importance, however he is doubtful for this fixture. Nevertheless, former Rovers forward Matt Derbyshire has completed a loan move to McLeish’s side; therefore he could make his debut against his previous employers.

Big Sam experimented with his side against Everton, playing talented youngster Phil Jones in defensive midfield, ahead of the clubs Player of the Season last year, Steven Nzonzi. Although the Frenchman did end up coming on to replace the injured Dunn, it will be interesting to see whether Allardyce will again opt to go with Jones protecting the back four. The system seemed to work reasonably well last time, therefore it would not be surprising to see Big Sam utilise the same tactics again.

Nikola Kalinic bagged his first goal of the new season last weekend and will be looking to continue his good form here. The Croatian striker was quick to react to Tim Howard’s blunder on the opening day and his awareness in and around the area will hold him in good stead when it comes to grabbing more goals this season. New loan signing Mame Diouf came off the bench in that game and showed his electrifying pace, ability to pick out a pass and strength in holding the ball, all within the space of less than forty-five minutes of competitive football. The Senegalese hitman will be looking to impress again, should he get the chance.

It will be quite difficult for Rovers to win this match, particularly due to Birmingham’s impressive comeback against Sunderland last time out. The confidence boost from that game will ensure that Blackburn will have to work extremely hard to gain anything from their disciplined opponents. On the other hand, Big Sam steered his side to victory over Everton and the Lancashire side will be full of confidence themselves after such a positive result. Rovers showed some good defensive qualities during that game and if they can hold tight at the back in this one as well, Birmingham will find it difficult to break them down.

All in all, Birmingham will be favourites due to them being the home side, but Blackburn have plenty in them to suggest they can grab all three points and continue their perfect start to what could be a very promising season for Sam Allardyce and his hardworking players.

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