Date: 14th December 2018 at 1:31pm
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I haven’t checked the statistics but I’m pretty confident that all three relegated sides winning immediate promotions back into the second tier has never happened before.

All three managers have different tasks. Paul Cook joined Wigan Athletic from Portsmouth and had to prove that he was both capable of managing a promotion from League One and take charge of a side under huge pressure to win the title.

Paul Warne had to reinvigorate a Rotherham United squad that broke the record for lowest points in a Championship season. He changed almost his entire squad in search for promotion and managed it.

Then there was Tony Mowbray. A respected figure within the game but somebody who had endured difficult spells with Celtic, Middlesbrough and Coventry City leading to Blackburn fans questioning whether he was good enough to manage their club.

Blackburn Rovers were falling, and falling deeply into trouble. Relegation into the third tier was an absolute no-no yet the fans were protesting against the owners and finances were looking precarious. Mowbray inherited a capable team but one lacking leadership and in need of a boost.

I can’t confess to having watched Blackburn with regularity but I get the sense that Mowbray has breathed fresh air into the club by letting his players do his talking for him on the pitch. Ewood Park became a fortress. Blackburn won promotion with over 90 points and their siege mentality in the second half of the 2017/18 campaign secured a promotion that at one point looked questionable.

The likes of Danny Graham, Charlie Mulgrew and Richard Smallwood have led by example through the centre of the pitch, Elliott Bennett, Darragh Lenihan and young goalkeeper David Raya have been pillars of consistency and Blackburn have begun moving in the right direction once again.

The final pieces of the jigsaw came in the shape of Bradley Dack and Adam Armstrong, two players capable of ripping open many defences with their late runs, pace and ability to finish.

Players brought into the club have followed suit. Questions have been asked of Harrison Reed and Jack Rodwell but both are grafting hard in their attempts to prove their doubters wrong. Blackburn is now a place that players want to play at and that is reflected in their positive start to the new campaign, one that has seen them lose just five of their opening 21 matches.

Blues face a very difficult task this weekend, regardless of Blackburn’s status of “newly promoted”. Monk’s task has been made even more difficult with the news that captain Michael Morrison is missing, ensuring that Blues will have to change their back four for just the second time this season.

It was good to see Garry Monk come out so positively when talking about the qualities of Marc Roberts, particularly the mental side in which he praised Roberts’ work ethic, leadership and willingness to continue learning. Roberts has endured a difficult beginning at St.Andrews and hearing those comments will certainly be a boost to the former Barnsley captain.

Monk may be losing Morrison but may be able to call upon Jota who has been missing for a month now with a hip problem. His return will be another major boost to a side that are lacking options from the bench currently – it has been telling how often Wes Harding has been brought on as the attacking substitution to turn the game around.

This weekend won’t be an easy task but there will be a response after last weekend’s defeat to Bristol City. If Blues can hold firm and show a little more energy in their display, an impressive victory could be on the cards.

Team news:  

Blackburn Rovers:

Tony Mowbray will be without the versatile Elliott Bennett for the clash but otherwise has close to a fully-fit squad to choose from. Ben Gladwin and Dominic Samuel are long-term absentees but Jack Rodwell returns after a bout of concussion.

 

Blues:

Captain Michael Morrison is set to miss his first game of the season with the hamstring injury that forced him off against Bristol City. Marc Roberts is set to make his first league start of the season while Jota could also return after a recent hip problem. David Davis and Isaac Vassell remain out.

The basics: 

Blackburn Rovers: 11th

Overall: Played 21; Won 7, Drawn 9, Lost 5; For 27, Against 31, GD -4; Points 30

Last six at home: Played 6; Won 3, Drawn 2, Lost 1; For 10, Against 8, GD 2; Points 11

Most starts: Richard Smallwood & David Raya – 20

Most goals: Bradley Dack – 9

Worst discipline: Corry Evans & Elliott Bennett – 5 yellow cards

Birmingham City: 9th

Overall: Played 21; Won 7, Drawn 9, Lost 5; For 30, Against 25, GD 5; Points 30

Last six away: Played 6; Won 3, Drawn 1, Lost 2; For 9, Against 9; GD 0; Points 0

Most starts: Colin, Morrison, Dean, Pedersen, Jutkiewicz – 21

Most goals: Lukas Jutkiewicz – 10

Worst discipline: Maikel Kieftenbeld – 4 yellow cards & 1 red card

When we last met:  

Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Birmingham City

Under the stewardship of Gianfranco Zola and enduring an extremely painful run of form, Blues were held away at Blackburn Rovers. Neither side dominated proceedings but amusingly, Lukas Jutkiewicz and Danny Graham, who remain key figures to this day, scored the goals. Both sides would go into the final day fighting for survival, Blues’ victory at Bristol City helping to relegate Rovers.

Opposition Player to Watch: Bradley Dack

After a fine spell at Gillingham, Bradley Dack has proven himself capable of scoring goals on a regular basis in the Championship. His importance is evidenced by the way Blackburn’s starting XI is often selected to get the best out of the lively attacking midfielder who is drawing glances from high-end Championship and Premier League clubs.

Prediction:

Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Birmingham City

Blues’ next five fixtures:  

22/12/2018: Wigan Athletic (A) – 15:00

26/12/2018: Stoke City (H) – 15:00

29/12/2018: Brentford (H) – 15:00

01/01/2018: Sheffield Wednesday (A) – 15:00

05/01/2018: West Ham United (A) – 12:30

 

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