Blackburn Rovers’ impressive 13-match unbeaten run against promoted teams in the Premier League came to an abrupt end as the struggling Lancashire outfit were beaten 3-0 by Swansea City on Saturday. That result kept Steve Kean’s side second-to-bottom in the table and with just four games to go, Rovers are staring relegation in the face.
The Ewood Park outfit have now lost five consecutive games in the top-flight and have conceded three goals in each of their last three fixtures. Therefore, news that talented centre-back Grant Hanley could be out for the rest of the season following an injury he picked up at the Liberty Stadium is likely to increase supporters’ nerves as Rovers enter the most crucial part of the campaign. Hanley, 20, who was mocked by many in the early stages of the campaign for making mistakes, has come on leaps and bounds over the last few months and is now considered to be a key member of the squad. Should his injury be as serious as first thought, then Rovers may struggle to call on an experienced replacement.
Given the departures of influential centre-backs Ryan Nelsen and Chris Samba in January/February, versatile Frenchman Gael Givet would be the next in line to fill Hanley’s boots. However, according to Kean, the former Marseille and Monaco defender was “nowhere
Should Givet continue to miss out, then it would leave Kean with just one senior centre-half available for the crucial game against Norwich this weekend. For a team which has conceded an alarming 73 goals so far this term – joint-most with bottom-place Wolves – life could become a lot more difficult if the much-maligned Scot is forced to play a member of his squad out of position at the heart of Rovers’ defence over the coming weeks.
Worse still, important attackers Junior Hoilett and Yakubu also picked up injuries at Swansea. While it is still unknown whether the duo will be fit in time for the weekend, if they do miss out then unfortunate Rovers are likely to be in a significant amount of trouble. The two forward have together scored 49% of Blackburn’s goals in the top-flight this season. Their likely replacements – David Goodwillie and Anthony Modeste – have scored just two league goals between them.
For many, the 3-0 defeat at the Liberty Stadium came as a huge blow to Rovers’ chances of survival, but some may argue that the impact of injuries sustained by key players in Wales could have more of a say in whether Blackburn remain a Premier League side come the end of the season. Should Givet, Hoilett and Yakubu be available for selection this weekend, then Rovers will be confident of having enough quality to give high-flying Norwich a test. If any one of the trio miss out, then the Lancashire side may find it difficult to pick up three much-needed points at this crucial stage of the season.