Match Preview: Blackburn Rovers v Bolton Wanderers

Life in the great Northwest. - Alex Livesey

It's a good old fashioned Lancashire Derby at Ewood Park this Wednesday. Bolton and Blackburn were promoted together back in 2001, and relegated together this past season. Now they meet in the Championship with even more at stake than all those years in the top flight.

First the good news. There is little chance of any Bolton Wanderers supporters getting lost on the way to Ewood Park. It's close, we've been there often, and we know it well. Now the bad news. Blackburn Rovers are playing better than us at the moment, or at least they are getting better results. Rovers are currently ninth in the table, with 28 points from 18 matches. Wanderers sit 18th in the table, with 22 points from 18 matches. The reason? Blackburn have only conceded 22 goals, while we have conceded 27.

Blackburn come in with a fairly recognizable team from our recent Premier League clashes, much like Bolton. Those matches were known for their physical nature, to put it kindly. They weren't the type of contests Arsene Wenger liked for his team to participate in, for example. Of course, there are consequences for such things. Mark Davies, Bolton's occasional midfield dynamo, will miss the match through suspension. He has accumulated five yellow cards. Four other Wanderers (Kevin Davies, Darren Pratley, Zat Knight, Tyrone Mears) are one yellow card away from a suspension, so they will all need to keep their heads about them.

There is another reason to worry about suspensions for the players. Dougie Freedman likes to play fast and loose with the squad, much more so than his predecessor did. It would be foolish to try and guess what the first team will look like tomorrow, but it is fair to say Dougie is not afraid to experiment. Let's say, just for kicks, he picks a central three of Keith Andrews, Jay Spearing, and Jacob Butterfield. Let's also say that all three play well in their roles and Bolton win the match (I'm not saying this is probable, after four straight draws, but bear with me). If that happens, Mark Davies is very likely to find himself starting from the bench against Ipswich Town on Saturday.

That brings us to Dougie's last experimental lineup, this past weekend against Brighton & Hove Albion. Erstwhile USA defender Tim Ream started in a holding midfield role. Some voices in the Bolton universe, mine included, feel that this is his future role, and, at the least, a short term solution to some (not all) of our defensive problems. Has Ream earned another start? This will determine a great deal about how Bolton play tomorrow.

We could, theoretically, set up with the clean sheet as our primary goal. This would probably involve a midfield three of Ream, Andrews, and Spearing. Not the most exciting formation imaginable, but the defense has to improve at this point. Adam Bogdan can only have so many MOTM performances.

So what's going to happen? Bolton are undefeated under Freedman. They opened with a win, and have drawn four matches since. Rovers are coming off a loss to Millwall, but had a win and two draws before that. Neither club is in especially good form, nor is either club in especially bad form. Each has kept one clean sheet in their past six matches. As the saying goes, and it is usually true for Bolton matches, there will be goals.

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