Yakubu form gives Kean hope
Blackburn manager Steve Kean believes the goal threat of veteran striker Ayegbeni Yakubu can help steer his side to Barclays Premier League safety.
Despite being forced to play a lone attacking role for a team that has been battling against relegation for most of the season, the Nigerian has still managed to notch an impressive 13 goals this season, 12 of them in the league.
Yakubu added another two during Blackburn's stunning win at Manchester United on Saturday.
It leaves him fifth in the Premier League scoring charts, and only five adrift of Golden Boot favourite Robin van Persie, whose performances at Arsenal have attracted such attention this term.
Van Persie's importance to the Gunners cannot be understated.
But the same is also true of Yakubu, a bargain #1.5million arrival from Everton on transfer deadline day.
"It is fairly obvious," said Kean.
"When you see the amount of goals he has got now, we are desperate to keep him fit.
"We look after him. He is in as good a physical condition as he has been in his career and we manage him during the week.
"There are times when we need to give him an extra recovery day because of the amount of mileage he is doing.
"We don't ask him to run to the channels. We just ask him to play the width of the box.
"We know if we can give him good service, he can get himself some goals."
Gael Givet is set to make a welcome return.
Givet has missed four games after being forced to undergo a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat but has now been given the all clear to resume his career.
David Dunn, Martin Olsson and Junior Hoilett (all hamstring) should also be added to the squad.
Meanwhile, assistant manager Dave Kemp is anticipating a stiff test at Ewood Park as Stoke aim to build on one of the greatest years in their history with a winning start to 2012.
In addition to securing a fourth consecutive season of Premier League football, the Potters reached their maiden FA Cup final in 2011, which in turn led to a first European campaign in almost four decades.
A mouthwatering last-32 tie against Valencia awaits when the Europa League resumes in February but first Stoke must seek to consolidate their top-half place in the league.
Ahead of Stoke's journey to Lancashire, Kemp said: "It was always going to be a tough game, as they all are, and it will obviously boost their confidence.
"They have had a good holiday period, getting a point at Liverpool and winning at Old Trafford, but it's up to us to go there and deal with it.
"We'll rest ourselves up, get ourselves ready and make sure we're ready to go."
Stoke once again have doubts over the fitness of full-back Andy Wilkinson.
Wilkinson, who has been sidelined recently with a back problem, returned to the Potters' starting XI for Saturday's 2-2 draw with Wigan, but limped off early in the second half after taking a knock to his knee earlier in the match.
Republic of Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan may also be unavailable after missing the last three games with a calf injury, while Cameron Jerome could be handed a rare league start after impressing from the bench against Wigan.