Robert Pires is in line to make his debut as Gabby Agbonlahor could miss out for depleted visitors...Indifferent Starts
Blackburn, who were taken over by Indian company Venky’s on Friday, finished an impressive 10th last season and looked set to kick on this term with Liverpool, Everton and Sunday’s opponents Aston Villa having indifferent starts to the season. However, Sam Allardyce has even admitted that their results haven’t been up to scratch and his side currently sit 14th in the table with 15 points from 13 games.
Villa, meanwhile, sit ninth in the league after picking up 17 points from their 13 games this season - a remarkable tally given the amount of uncertainty and injuries surrounding the club since Martin O’Neill’s departure just days before the start of the new campaign. Despite their off-field troubles over the last few months, Villa could climb to fifth with a win over Blackburn.
It seems a little more focus is needed from both sides if they are to carve out the results they are looking for this season. Blackburn have let a number of leads slip and would be third in the table if the games finished at half-time, while Villa have conceded five goals in the last five minutes of matches this term and have dropped 12 points from winning positions in the league.
Although Blackburn may be seen as favourites given their home advantage heading into this clash, Villa have had the upper hand in this fixture over the last few years. The Midlands club have won on four of their last five visits to Ewood Park, scoring 10 goals in the process. But they did lose both league games against Allardyce’s men last term, including a 1-0 defeat at Villa Park on the last day of the season.
Brett Emerton is Blackburn’s latest doubt after picking up a hamstring injury on international duty with Australia in midweek.
Martin Olsson, Steven Nzonzi and Benjani will all miss out with hamstring injuries for the hosts, while groin problems will keep Keith Andrews and Vince Grella sidelined.
Sam Allardyce has opted for a 5-4-1 formation in his side’s last two games but could switch back to his preferred 4-5-1 system, meaning Pascal Chimbonda may drop to the bench.
Possible starting XI: Robinson; Salgado, Samba, Nelsen, Givet; E Diouf, Emerton, Jones, Pedersen, Hoilett; Kalinic.
Robert Pires could be in line to make his debut after signing on a free transfer this week, but his appearance is subject to international clearance.
Gabby Agbonlahor is a doubt with the same groin injury that kept him out of England’s loss to France in midweek, while Ciaran Clark, James Collins (both calf), Richard Dunne (knee) and Stephen Ireland (flu) could also miss out.
Habib Beye (ankle), John Carew, Carlos Cuellar (both calf), Emile Heskey, Stilian Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker (all knee) and Steve Sidwell (Achilles) aren’t yet ready to return for Gerard Houllier’s depleted side.
Possible starting XI: Friedel; L Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Bannan, Hogg; Albrighton, A Young, Downing; Agbonlahor.