Since Big Sam’s arrival at Ewood Park in December 2008, the Blues have only been beaten six times on home soil – an impressive record which indicates how difficult it has become for travelling teams to take all three points from this part of Lancashire. In fact, Ewood was branded a fortress last season, with the hosts losing just three league games in front of the home crowd all season. This was a key factor in Rovers finishing 10th in the Premiership and Allardyce will be hoping that his side can match that record this campaign.
But Rovers must improve defensively if they are to take anything from this game. Allardyce slammed his side’s defensive display against Spurs last time out and Blackburn must address this quickly. English forward Gabriel Agbonlahor has a habit of scoring goals against Rovers and the Blues’ back-line will have to be at the top of their game if they are to prevent the pacey youngster from finding the net.
Another Villa striker, John Carew, has this week been linked with a move to Ewood Park. The 31-year-old Norwegian is currently unsettled at Villa and could be available for a cut-price fee of less than £3m, according to the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. Carew is strong and can lead the line well, which would make him an ideal signing for Allardyce. The experienced striker also has a reasonably good strike rate, scoring on average once every three games for Villa.
The Blues have also been linked with other attackers including Liverpool’s young Frenchman David Ngog and Standard Liege’s Mohammed Tchite. The fact that Rovers are actively seeking a new striker is very encouraging news, however fans will have been heartened that Indian poultry company Venky’s completed a takeover of the club on Friday. With the January transfer window looming, the takeover will offer Allardyce the opportunity of the funds to strengthen his squad.
Until then, Big Sam will have to make do with the striking options he has at his disposal. Young, Croatian forward Nikola Kalinic scored for his country in midweek, but the goals have dried out for him in the Premiership. Kalinic is undoubtedly a good talent, but whether he can play up front by himself is a different matter. The striker has proven to be ineffective in Allardyce’s current system and if selected he must be given support in order to achieve the best results. Meanwhile, Jason Roberts, who was deemed surplus to requirements at the start of the season, has been scoring goals recently and remains another good option for Sam Allardyce to use.
Rovers are more than capable of beating Aston Villa, particularly on home soil. The Blues did the double over their opponents last season and if Big Sam’s men can put in an excellent performance like the one they managed against Chelsea a few weeks ago, they should take all three points. However, Houllier’s side can cause problems for the hosts and the Rovers defenders will have to be at the top of their game if they are to take anything from this fixture.