Blackburn will be aiming to put real daylight between themselves and the relegation drop zone when they entertain a resurgent Sunderland at Ewood Park.
The home side sit on 25 points from their 28 Premier League games played this season and victory would push them six points clear of the drop-zone; a margin which, at this stage of the season, would almost guarantee them top flight football for next season.
Having gained an amazing 26 points from Martin O’Neill’s 14 games in charge; Sunderland have much loftier ambitions than avoiding the drop and are currently sitting in ninth place in the table, though a European place would appear to be beyond them at this stage of the season.
Vince Grella is Blackburn’s only injury concern as he continues to struggle with a calf strain. Bradley Orr returns to the side at right-back.
For the visitors; Sessengon and Cattermole are suspended, while, at this stage of the season, the soft tissue knocks tend to mount up and Kieran Richardson will miss the game with a calf injury.
Blackburn’s form has been unpredictable to say the least this season. One week after beating Manchester (2-3) at Old Trafford; they went on to lose (1-2) at home to Stoke! Having been obliterated 7-1 by Arsenal (the joint third largest defeat in Premier League history); they proceeded to rally and pip QPR 3-2 the following week! It is their ability to pull results out of the bag that make them odds against to avoid the drop but the fact that you never know when they might capitulate means punters won’t be betting fortunes on them managing to pull clear of that dreaded bottom three come the end of the season.
Martin O’Neill’s first game as Sunderland manager was against Blackburn and having been stuck in the drop-zone, two points behind their northern rivals; O’Neill’s boyhood club have pulled 12 points clear of the Lancashire side and are long since assured of Premier League survival. With the club still in the FA Cup – and one game from Wembley – Sunderland could be forgiven for losing their focus but with Irish players such as John O’Shea and James McLean battling for places on the Euro 2012 plane; manager Martin O’Neill will ensure that Sunderland will most certainly not roll over and die for a home side who are in need of a result.