The last time struggling Blackburn Rovers faced Aston Villa at home, co-owners Venkatesh and Balaji Rao were presented to the Ewood Park crowd before the game. The Rao brothers, who were given a warm welcome, are unlikely to be seen greeting Rovers’ angry supporters when the two sides meet this weekend. If the Lancashire outfit manages to notch up an important clean sheet and record a 2-0 win, just as they did that afternoon, then the protesting fans may just go back home with smiles on their faces.
Many Rovers supporters will tell you that the chances of Steve Kean’s side keeping a clean sheet are very slim. After all, these fans have seen their side concede a goal in every single league game since the slender 1-0 win over local rivals Bolton Wanderers last April. Blackburn has gone an incredible 29 top-flight matches without a shutout. Why would that abysmal run come to an end now – particularly after the departure of influential skipper and highly-rated centre-back Chris Samba?
The answer is that the Villa side traveling to Ewood Park on Saturday will be robbed of the services of their star forward Darren Bent and also of Irish striker Robbie Keane. Bent has sustained an injury, which is likely to keep him out for three months, while Keane has returned to LA Galaxy after his brief loan spell in England. Under-fire boss Alex McLeish – who has guided Villa to just one league win in his last seven games – has limited options in attack.
Villa have scored just 29 goals in the Premier League this season – with almost a third of those goals scored by Bent. In comparison, Rovers – currently in the relegation zone – have found the net on 37 occasions. Given that Villa have been struggling to score goals and will be without their key man, this fixture could be the perfect opportunity for Kean’s side to keep a clean sheet.
Rovers however have problems of their own. The hosts have already conceded the same number of goals this term (59) as they did in the whole of the 2010-2011 season. Kean’s defenders have struggled at the back throughout the campaign. Could it be that they have forgotten how to keep a clean sheet? Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor, who has scored four goals in his last six league games against Rovers, is likely to put that question to the test.
Both Rovers and Villa do have one thing in common this season – large sections of both sets of supporters are dissatisfied with their managers. Kean has been the subject of criticism from his own fans for the majority of the campaign, while the Villa fans have also turned on McLeish in recent weeks. The losing manager from this clash is likely to face further abuse from the crowd.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Blackburn