Blackburn are eager to take another step towards survival as they host West Ham, a side with eyes on the Europa League…
Kick-Off: Saturday, March 21, 15:00 (local time). Ewood Park, Blackburn.
Fight For Survival
Sam Allardyce has done a good job since taking over at Blackburn Rovers and after just one Premier League loss in four games his side sit outside the relegation zone.
They remain only a point clear of safety, but with nine games to go they sit on 30 points, and ten more will most likely see them avoid the drop.
In that sequence they have five winnable home fixtures, so many expect them to be one of the sides to keep their heads above water, but no wins are easy in the top-flight and Allardyce will need his team to be firing on all cylinders if they are to prevail.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the former Bolton Wanderers boss underlined the importance of his side’s Ewood Park fixtures.
"We are a little bit concerned that we haven't won at home since Newcastle in January, which was an outstanding victory in the end,” he stated.
"Since then though we haven't won a game at home, so it will be very important to win this one against West Ham.
“We've two home games on the trot that are very important at this stage of the season to make sure that you secure the maximum points if you can."
Confidence is high at the 1995 Premier League winners despite a heavy loss to Arsenal last week, but a negative result here would see the doubters rushing back to knock Blackburn again.
Four Wins From Europe
West Ham United have had a good campaign under new boss Gianfranco Zola. The club currently sit seventh in the Premier League and have a strong chance of making next season’s Europa League.
They must be careful about losing momentum, though. They were unimpressive in a 0-0 draw with bottom club West Bromwich Albion on Monday and it seems that injuries are beginning to take their toll yet again.
But Zola is determined to see his progress through to the end of the campaign and with nine games to go, the former Chelsea star thinks it will take his side four more victories to secure the expected reward of a European berth for finishing inside the top seven.
He told the press, “We have not been in Europe for a while.
"We need to push because we want to achieve the estimate of 52 points if we want to go to Europe, we need to push ourselves hard because we have a few injuries.
"It is achievable. You have to think in this way. You have to have a target and you have to give everything to achieve that."
A win here would certainly put the Hammers in a strong position, although they only have four wins on the road so far this season.
Mar 14 Arsenal 4-0 Blackburn (Premier League)
Mar 11 Fulham 1-2 Blackburn (Premier League)
Mar 04 Blackburn 0-0 Everton (Premier League)
Mar 01 Hull City 1-2 Blackburn (Premier League)
Feb 24 Coventry City 1-0 Blackburn (FA Cup)
Mar 16 West Ham 0-0 West Bromwich Albion (Premier League)
Mar 04 Wigan 0-1 West Ham (Premier League)
Mar 01 West Ham 1-0 Manchester City (Premier League)
Feb 25 Middlesbrough 2-0 West Ham (FA Cup)
Feb 21 Bolton Wanderers 2-1 West Ham (Premier League)
Blackburn Rovers duo Roque Santa Cruz (knee) and midfielder Vince Grella (groin) are both out of Saturday's game, while captain Ryan Nelsen and defensive colleague Gael Givet will have late checks on thigh and knee problems respectively.
Stephen Warnock is fit, though, after he successfully recovered from a toe injury.
Previous XI (0-4 Away V Arsenal): Robinson, Simpson, Samba, Ooijer, Givet, Diouf, Mokoena, Khizanishvili, Warnock, Pedersen, Roberts.
West Ham United's club record signing Savio Nsereko will have a late fitness test after picking up a knock this week, as will key defender Matthew Upson, who has a calf injury.
Kieron Dyer and Diego Tristan are in the match-day squad as the Hammers struggle to get a full strength side on the pitch with a string of long-term absentees.
Previous XI (0-0 Home V West Bromwich Albion): Green, Neill, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga, Noble, Kovac, Parker, Savio, Di Michele, Sears.
Blackburn Rovers have picked up some important wins recently, and if they can secure another one here, they will be confident of avoiding relegation to the Championship.
West Ham United have a different aim – to get into Europe, but I fear they may start to run out of steam at a crucial point in the season due to their injuries.
This should be a tight one, although I think Rovers can secure a narrow victory.
Blackburn Rovers 2-1 West Ham United
Chris Myson, Goal.com