Blackburn V Fulham at Ewood Park : Match Preview
Blackburn manager Steve Kean admits this weekend's Barclays Premier League fixture schedule looks promising for his team - but is taking nothing for granted.
Rovers, currently bottom of the table, host Fulham while fellow strugglers Bolton (18th) and Wolves (16th) are at Manchester United and Tottenham respectively.
Sunday then sees 17th-placed QPR travel to high-flying Newcastle before second-bottom Wigan take on leaders Manchester City at the DW Stadium on Monday night.
A win could take Blackburn out of the relegation zone if other results go their way and Kean feels there is a "very good chance" Rovers will have their heads above water so long as they seal the three points against the Cottagers.
Having seen his side spring a surprise in recent weeks by drawing 1-1 at Anfield and winning 3-2 at Old Trafford, though, the Scot knows it is risky trying to predict how games will go and insists the focus simply needs to be on the job at Ewood Park.
"We know some of the teams around us have got difficult fixtures this weekend,"
Kean said. "We also know there can be upsets, though, because people probably looked at our last two away games (in the league) and thought we weren't going to get anything.
"What you can guarantee is looking after your own results. "We will go into the Fulham game with lots more people available, a good training week under our belt and we know if we can get a positive result, there is a very good chance that we can climb out of the bottom three with plenty of games to go."
Blackburn are set to have several key players back, with goalkeeper Paul Robinson (calf), winger Junior Hoilett and central midfielder David Dunn (both hamstring) all in line to make their returns from injury having been in full training this week.
Captain Christopher Samba - who Kean says is not for sale - is also fit again after sitting out the FA Cup defeat at Newcastle last weekend due to an ankle knock and tight hamstring. After the encouraging results on the road, Rovers were brought crashing back down to earth in their last league outing by a 2-1 home defeat to Stoke.
Fulham boss Martin Jol has praised Blackburn's board for sticking with under-fire Kean. Owners Venky's and Kean have come under fire from unhappy fans, leading to calls for both to leave the Lancashire outfit. Jol admits he has never seen anything like it before during his career in professional football and admires the owners for their backing of Kean.
"It is an awkward situation," the Fulham manager said. "Most of the time the club, the board and the owners will give in after a couple of week and we, the managers, are gone. "But they have stuck with him and you get a different situation.
"I think this could be the first time probably in the history of the Premier League that a board stuck with their manager [under such pressure]. How many times will that happen?
"You need time for development as well as results, which is not a good combination. "Of course as you saw with QPR it is a tough job and people have to make decision like that." Jol was referring to Neil Warnock's sacking as QPR manager earlier this week after a string of poor performances.
Warnock claims he would have kept the R's in the Premier League and Jol believes Kean can do the same if Blackburn stick with him.
"I feel for any manager that is under pressure," he said. "He, of course, needs time. "He does not necessarily have a young team but there are a few good youngsters there. I think they have been a bit unfortunate. "Hopefully they will let him get on with his job and then you will see, with his younger players and Yakubu up front, they will be fine."
Jol does not necessarily agree this is a good time to be playing Rovers. "Every game is different," he said. "If you saw them over the last four or five games they were always on the fringe of doing something good, but then they conceded a goal and that was awful for them.
"But it is not easy to play at Manchester United and if you saw that match, they played a 4-5-1 and came away with a good result.
"If you let them play, they have good players on the ball. "For us we need to be efficient and score one or two goals and then, of course, we are in with a chance."
Jol will have Simon Davies (back) and Andrew Johnson (groin) available while Dickson Etuhu will be assessed ahead of the match.
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