Club Focus – Blackburn – Hughes set for Ewood Park return without Zamora

Mark Hughes returns to Ewood Park this weekend, with his Fulham side set to take on Sam Allardyce’s troops on Saturday. Hughes enjoyed a successful managerial spell at Blackburn, where he guided a relegation-threatened team to European football within a matter of just a few seasons. Since then, the Welshman has taken charge of moneybags Manchester City and now he has control over the Cottagers.

Hughes achieved a significant amount with the Lancashire side and is hoping to spice up his new Fulham side in a similar fashion. Although the former Manchester United player has inherited a better side in Fulham than the Rovers squad he was presented with in 2004, Hughes will still try to mould his new team into a more difficult outfit to beat, particularly on their travels. Fulham haven’t won a league game away from home in their last twenty attempts, so the odds are on Blackburn to secure victory.

However, the Londoners have started this campaign well and are unbeaten so far after four games. The Cottagers are two points ahead of Rovers in the early stages of the season and Big Sam will be looking for his side to leapfrog their opponents this weekend.

Chris Samba admitted that Rovers simply have to beat Fulham, after losing two of their last three games. Although the Lancashire side held Manchester City to a draw at Eastlands last time out, fans and staff are wary that victory is needed if Rovers are to keep up with their hopes of finishing in the top half of the Premier League once again.

Sam Allardyce has made his Blackburn side difficult to beat at home. In fact, of the 32 home games he has taken charge of so far, Rovers have lost just five. Therefore, the onus is on them to avoid defeat against Fulham. The side seem to have fixed a key issue from last year – that of scoring goals. The presence of Mame Diouf coupled with the alertness of Nikola Kalinic means that Rovers look far more threatening going forward.

Meanwhile, their opponents Fulham have lost key striker Bobby Zamora to injury. The England striker really improved last season and would have been a threat to Rover’s defence this weekend. However, Blackburn should not be resting on their laurels. Mark Hughes has made an astute signing for his new club in the form of Belgian forward Moussa Dembele. Having scored a brace in the previous game, the young striker is surely a threat.

Another worrying statistic is that Sam Allardyce’s record against his opposite number is terrible to say the least. In the five meetings between both men, Mark Hughes has almost always come out on top. Big Sam has failed to secure victory over his rival in any of the five fixtures, losing four of them along the way. Therefore, the Rovers boss may need to rethink his tactics prior to this meeting.

As for progress off the pitch, Western Gulf Advisory, the firm of potential buyer Ahsan Ali Syed have agreed to an extended period of exclusivity with the club ahead of any possible deal. This means that Syed is still looking through the books and no other interested party can check the accounts until further notice. With so much visible interest from the Indian businessman, a takeover seems inevitable, though some fans are beginning to question why the process is taking so long.

Nevertheless, Rovers can only do their best on the pitch for the moment and try not to be distracted by these talks. As mentioned earlier, Blackburn have a very respectable record at home under Allardyce and will be looking to keep that good form going against Fulham. With Rovers posing a larger threat going forward and Fulham known for struggling on their travels, it seems likely that the home side can secure all three points. However, the Cottagers seem a very good side under Mark Hughes so far and the clash should prove a fascinating encounter.

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