The task ahead for Blackburn Rovers may not be a simple one, but it is very clear. If they beat title-chasing Manchester United at home on Saturday, then Steve Kean’s side will secure Premier League safety. Should they lose, however, Sunday night could see Rovers slip into the bottom three for the first time this season. A draw may or may not be enough. The stakes are high and time is running out.
A quick look at the table would suggest that United are overwhelming favourites to win the game and seal the title at Ewood Park this weekend. Not only are the Manchester outfit six points clear at the top of the league, but they have also scored more goals than any other side this season, and Rovers fans will want no reminder of the score line when the Blues last faced United. The chances of Kean’s side causing a shock look bleak, although a glance at the visitors’ away record might fill Rovers fans with some hope.
The Red Devils have won just five of 18 games on their travels this season. They have only won one and lost three of their last five Premier League away games and have collected fewer points away from home this season than in any other previous campaign. This is by no means the best Manchester United side ever to step onto a football pitch. They are beatable.
Rovers’ own recent form is relatively respectable for a team who are fighting it out at the wrong end of the table. Kean’s side have lost just twice in their last seven outings and have picked up four points from their last two games. Although Rovers’ home form is not as impressive as it could be, the Blues have conceded just 15 goals at Ewood Park all season – only the current top five have conceded less.
Rovers were somewhat unfortunate not to clinch all three points against West Ham United last time out as they looked quite comfortable for much of the game. However, this will be a tougher test for Kean. The likes of Michel Salgado and Phil Jones are likely to return to action, but silky Spaniard Ruben Rochina – who scored a terrific brace for the reserves against United on Wednesday – could miss out because of a dislocated shoulder. Mame Diouf will be ineligible for the clash.
The Rovers defence will have to watch out for top-scorer Dimitar Berbatov, who embarrassed them by scoring five goals at Old Trafford earlier this season. The Bulgarian has been rested quite regularly in recent weeks – however he could be recalled to haunt the hosts once more. At the other end, United should be looking to stop Rovers’ wingers doing any real damage. If both the quick, skilful youngsters Junior Hoilett and Martin Olsson start out wide for Kean’s side, then the home crowd will sense that anything can happen. Although Rovers cannot match Manchester United pound-for-pound, a good gritty performance like last seasons encounter at Ewood could well earn them a crucial point – or even better, all three.