Club Focus – Blackburn Rovers – Bolton fixture vital towards securing Premier League future

The term ‘must-win game’ is used far too often these days, but it would take a very brave Blackburn Rovers fan to suggest that this Saturday’s crunch clash against local-rivals Bolton Wanderers was not an extremely important affair. Although Rovers would still have a further three games to save their Premier League status after this weekend, the visit of Owen Coyle’s men provides the Blues with an ideal opportunity to finally end a run of ten league games without a win.

Bolton have been impressive this season under one of Britain’s brightest young managers, and therefore this will not be an easy game for Steve Kean’s team. In fact, some would argue that Rovers’ recent home games against relegation-threatened sides Blackpool and Birmingham City were perhaps less dangerous fixtures than this one, but the fact remains that the Lancashire outfit did not make the most of those matches and will now be under extreme pressure to deliver three points this time around.

Despite Bolton enjoying a brilliant season, Coyle’s side have been reasonably poor on their travels this campaign. The Trotters have won just twice away from home this season – only Fulham have won less. In addition, Wanderers have failed to keep a clean sheet away from the Reebok Stadium this season, which suggests that Rovers’ misfiring strikers could finally score a goal. Although statistics count for little, these facts should give the Ewood Park crowd some hope ahead of this highly-anticipated game.

The hosts could have a number of players returning from injuries and suspensions in time for this weekend. Steven Nzonzi, Rovers’ Player of the Year from last season, could make his way back into the starting line-up having served a three-match ban following his dismissal against Arsenal earlier this month. The young Frenchman has endured a frustrating season so far, but could prove to be a vital player in Rovers’ four remaining league games. Meanwhile, star-man Junior Hoilett could return to action after sitting out of the last two games with a hamstring injury. The highly-rated Canadian winger has been a hero for Rovers in recent weeks, rescuing points for the Lancashire side with crucial equalisers. His return would be a major boost for Kean.

However, inspirational local midfielder David Dunn, who has struggled for fitness this season, will miss out through injury. On-loan striker Roque Santa Cruz, who was ineligible for the visit of his parent club Manchester City on Monday night, could also be forced to sit in the stands with a hamstring injury.

With the likes of Nzonzi and Hoilett ready to return, Kean certainly has a talented squad who are capable of picking up points against Bolton. Although Wanderers boss Coyle will be looking to finish the season as high up the table as possible, Rovers are more desperate for the points. This game will not immediately seal Rovers’ fate, but it could play a huge part in deciding whether Kean’s side avoid the drop this season.

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