Blackburn Club Focus – Relegation battle with Wolves likely to be pivotal for survival hopes

When Blackburn Rovers faced Wolverhampton Wanderers on the final day of the 2010/11 season, Steve Kean’s side knew that a win would keep them in the Premier League. The Lancashire outfit went on to produce one of their best first-half performances of the campaign, sailing to a terrific 3-0 lead. Wolves, then managed by Mick McCarthy, pulled two goals back in the second period to save themselves from relegation by the finest of margins, and both sets of supporters celebrated wildly as their teams had survived the dreaded drop.

The outcome of the upcoming fixture between the two sides at Molineux could prove to be equally as important. Both Rovers and Wolves have reached just 22 points from their 27 games so far this term, though Kean’s men currently sit one place above their relegation-threatened rivals on goal difference. While both teams will still have 10 games in which to protect their Premier League status after this clash, a win for either side will give them a welcome three-point advantage over the other as we enter the business end of the season.

Rovers will be encouraged by the fact that their opponents have not won at Molineux since the beginning of December. Wolves have also conceded more goals at home (28) than any other team in the top-flight this season, but Rovers themselves have shipped the most (33) on their travels. Interestingly, the Lancashire side has taken the fewest points (5) in fixtures between the current bottom five teams so far this term, while Wolves have collected the most (10).

Those expecting the visitors to record a victory over Wolves, just as they did last season, will know that Rovers have lost a number of key players since that crucial game was played. Chris Samba, Jermaine Jones, Phil Jones, Brett Emerton and Jason Roberts have all moved on, while Michel Salgado has fallen out of favour due to contractual issues (see the Daily Mail). The majority of substitutes from that day, including Keith Andrews, Roque Santa Cruz, Benjani Mwaruwari and Mame Biram Diouf, have also left the club. Rovers are mostly reliant on Nigerian striker Yakubu these days.

Supporters might soon be able to welcome a new signing to the club however, should Dutch winger Boudewijn Zenden be offered a short-term deal to join the Ewood Park outfit. According to the Lancashire Telegraph, Kean is eager to hand Zenden a deal to return to the Premier League, but owners Venky’s are yet to enter negotiations. The 35-year-old attacking midfielder, who was most recently a Sunderland player, is well known to Rovers’ assistant manager Eric Black from their days together in the North East. Some fans have however questioned the benefit of such a signing for a team that has been impressive going forward during the season, but has struggled defensively.

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