The Premier League’s bottom two sides, Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic, will look to turn their struggling seasons around as the local rivals prepare to face each other in a six-pointer at the DW Stadium this weekend.
A quick glance at the table makes it easy to see where Wigan are going wrong. Martinez’s men, who will approach this crucial fixture on the back of eight consecutive top-flight defeats, have found the net on just seven occasions so far this term – less than any other side. For Rovers, the problems have been coming at the other end. The Ewood Park outfit have already shipped an alarming 24 goals, which is 41% of the total amount they conceded in the whole of last season.
For a squad which consists of a high number of talented defenders including ex Real Madrid legend Michel Salgado, Arsenal and Tottenham target Chris Samba, highly-rated Englishman Scott Dann and former Champions League finalist Gael Givet, those statistics are very worrying. However, as manager Steve Kean has been keen to reiterate, Rovers have been hit with some rotten luck this season and many of their star players have been injured.
Salgado has missed a number of games through injury this term and versatile midfielder Jason Lowe has deputised for the experienced Spaniard at right-back. England Under-21 international Lowe has looked more and more convincing in defence as each game has gone by, however he is by no means the finished article.
Both Congolese giant Samba and potential record signing Dann were expected to form a mean partnership at the heart of Rovers’ defence this campaign, however niggling injuries have prevented the duo from forming that vital relationship on the pitch. As a consequence of their on-and-off fitness issues, tough-tackling Frenchman Givet has had to slot in at centre-back on occasions, leaving attack-minded Swedish star Martin Olsson covering him at left-back.
Organising a makeshift defence has not proved to be easy and things could get worse before they get better. Kean could face a shortage in the right-back position, with Academy graduate Lowe suspended for the upcoming fixture against Wigan having collected five bookings this season. If Salgado is still unavailable due to injury then summer arrival Bruno Ribeiro could be in line to make his first start. Kean will also be hoping for one of either Samba or Dann to be fit for the game, otherwise youngster Grant Hanley could be made to deputise.
Kean insists that Rovers’ luck will soon change, but the former Premier League champions cannot simply rely on fortune to get them out of the current mess they find themselves in. Angry fans will accept nothing less than three points against Wigan. It promises to be an intriguing encounter.
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