Club Focus – Blackburn Rovers – Santa Cruz’s return fails to ignite Blackburn at Stamford Bridge

Blackburn Rovers slumped to a 2-0 defeat against champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a game that saw the return of Paraguayan striker and former fans’ favourite, Roque Santa Cruz. The forward, currently on loan from Manchester City, made an appearance as a second half substitute but could not prevent Steve Kean’s men from falling to another away loss.

Blackburn are reportedly paying Santa Cruz’s wages in full and, providing he can stay fit, the striker will no doubt be a quality loan signing for the Lancashire outfit. Signed by Mark Hughes for £3.5m in 2007, Santa Cruz scored an impressive 23 goals in his debut season in English football. While his Rovers career was hampered by injury it did not prevent a big-money move to City. The Paraguayan hardly played for the Manchester side, however, and a return to Ewood Park could get his career back on track.

As for this game, Chelsea dominated throughout and looked particularly threatening down the right hand side with Portuguese right-back, Jose Bosingwa, providing the home side with an incredible amount of width. Rovers were fortunate not to go behind in the first period and relied on last-ditch defending to stay in the game. Kean’s men caused one or two problems on the counter attack, but playing on the break was always going to be dangerous and Rovers were undone by two set pieces in the second half. In all honesty, these are not the type of games that will decide where Rovers finish this season. The Lancashire side are much better at home and Ewood is where they will pick up the majority of their points.

Nevertheless, it was interesting to see how Rovers set their stall out against Chelsea. They were somewhat cautious in their approach, unlike their previous Premier League game against Liverpool where they successfully used width to torment the Reds. Instead, Kean’s side allowed Chelsea to dominate as Samba and co soaked up the pressure. In the end the tactic failed to win them any points although it was fascinating to see Rovers refrain from the long-ball style used so often under Sam Allardyce. Refreshingly, Kean is getting his side to hold the ball and pass it around, even when playing direct football could help their cause at times.

Meanwhile, Rovers are attempting to bring more players to the club during this transfer window. While Santa Cruz will give them some added quality up front, Blackburn is also looking to strengthen the midfield where Kean has been missing three key central midfielders. With Vince Grella, Steven Nzonzi and Keith Andrews all absent for some time now it is not surprising to see the club trying to bring in Jermaine Jones. The Schalke defensive midfielder is out of favour at his current club and is reportedly on the verge of a move to Ewood, albeit on loan. Another player thought to be on his way to Lancashire is Barcelona youngster Ruben Rochina.

The return of Santa Cruz, it seems, might be the first move in what could be a busy week of transfer activity for Blackburn Rovers.

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