Saturday’s big match preview - Blackburn Rovers v West Ham Utd
IN 18 Premier League seasons West Bromwich Albion are the only side to have been bottom of the league on Christmas Day and survived relegation.
With Avram Grant’s side currently three points adrift of 19th-placed Wolves, Saturday’s clash with Blackburn Rovers is a must-win game.
Rovers have won their last three home games, conceding just one goal in the process.
Couple that with four goals and no victories for the Hammers in eight league games away from Upton Park this season and the chances of a famous Irons victory appear remote.
However, following the shock departure of manager Sam Allardyce on Monday and West Ham’s excellent recent record against Blackburn, Ewood Park may be the perfect place to visit in the final game before the festive period.
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Both meetings between the side’s last season were goalless and the Hammers have not lost to Blackburn in nine games.
While Rovers are hardly free-scoring, they boast a resolute backline that will prove difficult for the visitors to break down.
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Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelsen form a sturdy central defensive partnership and with England international goalkeeper Paul Robinson behind them, Rovers have kept back-to-back clean sheets at Ewood Park in the wins over Wolves and Aston Villa.
Senegalese striker Mame Biram Diouf and Norwegian international winger Morten Gamst Pedersen are likely to provide Rovers’ biggest attacking threat.
Diouf is the club’s top scorer with five goals since his loan move from Manchester United, while Pedersen is just one behind with four.
West Ham’s best chance of getting something out of the game is likely to come from the left flank.
Former Real Madrid full-back Michel Salgado is past his best at 35 and looks vulnerable against pace.
Junior Stanislas started on the left for the Hammers in the defeat to Manchester City and should the 21-year-old keep his place at the expense of Pablo Barrera and Kieron Dyer, the youngster may prove to be West Ham’s hero.
Possible team: Robinson, Salgado, Nelsen, Samba, Olsson, Jones, Emerton, Gamst Pedersen, E H Diouf, Roberts, M B Diouf.
Blackburn Rovers 0 West Ham 1