Two of the six clubs who have earned seven points from the opening three games meet at Ewood Park on Saturday when sixth placed Blackburn Rovers host top of the table West Bromwich Albion.
For Baggies fans, it is another meeting with a popular former manager, Tony Mowbray, a man with a very different football philosophy to the current favourite at the Hawthorns, Valérien Ismaël. For the former Celtic boss, it will be the fifth meeting with Albion since he became Rovers boss in February 2017, and he has lost just the once, at the Hawthorns in August 2019, and beat Darren Moore’s side on New Year’s Day of the same year at Ewood Park.
Rovers have started the season well beating Swansea City at home on the opening day before earning a creditable point away to Millwall in game two. As Albion were battering Sheffield United, Mowbray’s team grabbed all three points at Nottingham Forest with a late winner leaving Chris Hughton’s side without a point so far this season.
However, the one blot on Mowbray’s campaign this season was a disappointing early exit from the League Cup as they were beaten at home by League One Morecambe. More worrying was that it was a strong team with Mowbray having made just two changes from the side that beat Swansea.
The former Baggies boss is having to cope with the loss of his most potent striker from last season, Adam Armstrong, who moved to Southampton last week for an undisclosed fee. A further ten players have been allowed to leave on free transfers with the only new face being 19-year-old Leighton Clarkson on loan from Liverpool. Mowbray will be hoping that Clarkson can enjoy the same success as his teammate Harvey Elliott who spent last season on loan at Ewood earning him a nomination for the EFL’s Young Player of the Season award.
With Armstrong’s departure, much of the goalscoring burden falls to Ben Brereton Díaz, who added his Chilean mother’s surname to his own after opting to play international football for Chile, which he did at this summer’s Copa America. It’s a tough ask for a player that notched only seven goals last season, but he has already found the net twice during this campaign.
Helping Brereton Díaz will be Sam Gallagher who joined from Southampton in 2019. He scored eight goals last season, mostly from the bench, and will certainly be looking for this to be a breakthrough season for him without Armstrong to compete with.
One time Albion target and potent goalscorer, Bradley Dack, has endured an injury nightmare over the past eighteen months having suffered a second cruciate ligament injury in March less than three months after returning from his first – he remains sidelined.
While it has been a decent start for Rovers, all their games have been close and they will not have played anything quite like Ismaël’s Albion side. However, it will be interesting to see whether the Baggies players can produce the same level of intensity having already played twice this week. That is one of the biggest fears with this style of football and, while it is early in the season, this weekend does represent the first small test of fitness.
Assuming there are no injuries, I’m not expecting too much to change with the starting line up, not least as Big Val’s choices are limited. Matt Phillips and Adam Reach are perhaps the only options that wouldn’t result in a reduction on quality, and I’m making a judgment on Reach having only seen him play a few minutes – it would be harsh to drop Townsend after his performance on Wednesday.
If the players can maintain that intensity for 90 minutes, they should have too much for Blackburn. Furthermore, it’s been almost a decade since Albion won at Ewood Park, so it’s about time that particular run came to an end!
Blackburn Rovers and West Bromwich Albion are two of the oldest clubs in England and Saturday will be the 130th meeting between the sides, with the first coming way back in February 1885 at Albion’s Four Acres ground in the quarter final of the FA Cup – Rovers won 2-0.
Both were Founder Members of the Football League and met in round three of the inaugural league campaign at Leamington Road, Blackburn, with the hosts winning 6-2 thereby inflicting Albion’s first ever league defeat. That remains Rovers biggest win over the Baggies although the best result at Ewood Park came in October 1920 – Albion were defending champions but were making a poor fist of it and Rovers ran out 5-1 winners.
Earlier in the same year, it was a very different story as Albion themselves were 5-1 winners at Ewood with Alf Bentley grabbing a hat trick and they completed a ten-goal league double a week later as they won the reverse fixture at the Hawthorns 5-2.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
11 Jul 2020 – League Championship
Blackburn Rovers 1 (Rothwell)
West Brom 1 (Krovinović)
31 Aug 2019 – League Championship
West Brom 3 (Phillips, Livermore, Diangana)
Blackburn Rovers 2 (Dack, Johnson)
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
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