As the season draws to its conclusion, the top four sides have shown their ability to cope under pressure. In the last three rounds of fixtures, the only points dropped by the top four were by Leeds against Luton Town. They have since won their last two, including an hugely impressive 5-0 win over Stoke City to regain top spot on Thursday, while Albion, Brentford and Fulham won all won their last three games, with the Bees having won all five games since the restart.
By the time Slaven Bilić’s team kick off at Ewood Park on Saturday afternoon, they will know if Brentford have continued their remarkable run as they face Derby County at Pride Park at lunchtime. Fulham, currently two points behind the Bees, face Cardiff City on Friday night while Leeds United travel to Swansea City on Sunday.
That means that another win for Albion will put them top of the table once again on Saturday evening. More importantly, three more wins will secure their place back in the Premier League.
Wednesday’s win over Derby County was a hugely impressive performance, although the scoreline did not reflect their dominance. If they play anything like that well on Saturday afternoon, I cannot see anything other than an Albion win.
Tony Mowbray’s team sit four places and five points outside the play offs, so while it is not impossible for them to finish in the top six, it would seem highly unlikely. Their promotion challenge faltered badly with the restart of football – after a win over Bristol City, they lost the next three before recording a surprise win at Cardiff on Tuesday evening.
That performance suggested that they are playing with freedom, knowing that they need to win every game, but that could play into Albion’s hands. The Baggies will certainly fancy themselves in an open game against most teams in the division and, as Wednesday night proved, they can be devastating on the break.
Albion fans will have been pleased to learn that Grady Diangana’s injury is not serious, and he may even be fit to face Blackburn although I doubt Bilić will risk him from the start. Gibbs is the only other injury doubt, while Hegazi will be available again after serving his suspension.
Without Diangana, I think Slav will switch back to 4-3-3 with Krovinović back in the middle of the park, but that could be his only change from the team that started against Derby. He may choose to shuffle the pack a little, but given his effusive praise of the team after the Derby match, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it largely unchanged.
Blackburn have little to lose but Albion should have nothing to fear – they are a better side and have just produced their best display since the lockdown. Another win should be there for the taking.
As two of the oldest football clubs in England, Albion and Blackburn have a very long history with their first meeting in the FA Cup in 1885. Rovers were the Baggies’ nemesis in their first two FA Cup campaigns as they beat Albion in Round 6 in 1885 and in the final in 1886. The Lancashire club held the edge in the early years of league football as Albion won just five of the first nineteen meetings in league and cup. One of those victories was significant in that the first time they beat Blackburn in the FA Cup, in 1892, the Baggies went on to win it.
Rovers were a real force in the first five decades and were rarely troubled with any relegation worries – the closest they came was in Albion’s title winning campaign when they finished 20th in the enlarged top tier, just one place and one point above the drop zone. They won two league titles, in 1912 and 1914, but finally succumbed to relegation for the first time in 1936.
The Baggies showed their superiority that season recording their biggest ever victory over Blackburn at the Hawthorns. W. G. Richardson and Jack Mahon both registered hat tricks for the Baggies while Walter Robbins and Jack Sankey also scored in an 8-1 victory.
Albion, themselves, were relegated the following season to set up the first ever meeting between the clubs in the second tier in November 1938 – a 2-0 win for the Baggies.
Rovers were promoted that season but were back in Division Two a few years after the Second World War and, between 1949 and 1992, Blackburn enjoyed only eight seasons in the top flight, between 1958 and 1966, and dropped down to the third tier for a few seasons in the early seventies.
As a result, the two clubs only shared a division for one season for the two decades before Albion suffered relegation to Division Two in 1986. Ironically enough, the Baggies recorded a league double over Blackburn in 1990-91 including an impressive 3-0 win at Ewood Park in February when Don Goodman scored twice after Gary Robson had opened the scoring. That was under the caretaker managership of Stuart Pearson and, when Bobby Gould took over, Albion would win just twice more that season and were relegated.
Blackburn meanwhile, would appoint Kenny Dalglish as their new manager the following October and were promoted to the newly formed Premier League in 1992, winning it three years later.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
31 Aug 2019 – League Championship
West Brom 3 (Phillips, Livermore, Diangana)
Blackburn Rovers 2 (Dack, Johnson)
Last meeting at Blackburn Rovers
1 Jan 2019 – League Championship
Blackburn Rovers 2 (Mulgrew, Dack)
West Brom 1 (Rodriguez (pen))
Last win at Blackburn Rovers
17 Dec 2011 – Premier League
Blackburn Rovers 1 (Dann)
West Brom 2 (Morrison, Odemwingie)
Albion’s Record against Blackburn Rovers