Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Season Summaries--7. Blackburn Rovers

7. Blackburn Rovers (My preseason prediction: 10th)

Until Blackburn's most recent Premiership game, a 2-0 loss at Manchester United on the 11th, this was a club that was flying high, unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions. Pundits were tabbing Rovers to take Liverpool's place in the top four, especially after they looked to be the better team against the Reds in their 0-0 draw just a week prior to the United game. However as the defending champions were supposed to do, United put Blackburn back in their place and halted the considerable momentum which Mark Hughes' squad had established.

I'm still not sure what to make of this team. Blackburn have identical records both home and away in the Premiership (3-2-1) and have come away with a point in their games against Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal, the measuring sticks for teams looking to fight their way into the Champions League places. They also have advanced to the Round of the 8 in the Carling Cup, where they'll host Arsenal on December 18. However, they were eliminated over two legs in the UEFA Cup 2nd qualifying round by Larissa, a Greek side, and won at Portsmouth earlier in the Carling Cup but have also lost to the South Coasters at Ewood Park in a Premier League game.

Five goals in nine Premiership starts for South African forward Benni McCarthy is a fantastic strike rate but it would be unrealistic to expect him to continue at the same pace all season, and I don't believe Roque Santa Cruz will keep up his current goals-per-game (4 goals in 11 starts) ratio either. Brad Friedel isn't getting any younger and none of the other goalies on the roster have started a Premiership game since the 2003-2004 season (two starts for Peter Enckelman). If anything happened to Friedel, Blackburn could be in trouble, and as only 15 field players have started in the Premiership this season, there's also obviously a lack of talented depth on the roster. Blackburn are making a strong UEFA Cup push, but I believe both Aston Villa and Everton will finish ahead of Rovers at the end of the year.

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