Blackburn Club Focus – Samba misses out as Rovers clinch point at Goodison

Despite the absence of influential, want-away skipper Chris Samba at Goodison Park on Saturday, Blackburn Rovers put in a spirited performance to claim a well-deserved 1-1 draw against David Moyes’ Everton side. Samba, who handed in an official transfer request last week to try and force a move to either Queens Park Rangers or Tottenham Hotspur, was left out of the squad altogether by manager Steve Kean for the important clash. However, in truth, for the first time in months, it probably eased his selection headache ahead of the game.

For much of the season so far, the Rovers boss has complained about not having all of his key defenders fit. Indeed, on different occasions this term he has seen Samba, Scott Dann and Gael Givet all miss out through injury. But on Saturday, Kean had those three centre-backs fully fit, while the impressive youngster Grant Hanley was also battling to make his way into the starting line-up once again.

Kean decided to leave Samba out in what will have been a tough week, at least mentally, for the Congolese giant. His transfer request was rejected and he was told in no uncertain terms that he is not for sale. For a player who has made it clear he wants out, this news must have been unwelcome. However, on the whole, most Rovers fans who were complaining about Kean’s team-selection were not bothered about Samba’s absence, but were more concerned about Hanley, who was dropped for expensive summer signing Dann.

Hanley, who just a month ago was being criticised by his own fans for not being good enough for the Premier League, has suddenly emerged as some sort of hero following outstanding recent performances, most notably at Anfield and Old Trafford. Some argued that he should have lined up alongside Givet or the returning Dann. Instead, it was Dann who partnered Givet at the heart of Rovers’ defence.

Not that it mattered. On the whole, the Lancashire outfit were superb at the back, and were unfortunate not to claim their first clean sheet since April 2011. In fact, even the goal they conceded to Tim Cahill from close range was dubious due to Marouane Fellaini’s handball in the build-up. But if all four of Rovers’ centre-halves remain fit, then Kean will have a huge selection dilemma when Samba returns after the transfer window closes.

Meanwhile, Argentine midfielder Mauro Formica has been linked with a move to Greek side Olympiacos. Formica, who signed for Rovers last January, has been quite impressive for the Ewood Park outfit this term, finding the net three time in the Premier League so far. And the 23-year-old has made more top-flight appearances than any other Rovers player this campaign, which suggests that he has quietly been a key player for Kean so far. While it has been reported that Formica is homesick and would like a return to Argentina, Rovers will be looking to make a profit on their £3.5m investment. Therefore, it is likely that Olympiacos’ strange loan bid will be rejected.

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