Blackburn Rovers will carry the threat of relegation and a major selection headache into their trip to Everton on Saturday.The Trotters are suffering an ill-timed slide down the English Premier League table as their form under manager Steve Kean worsens, slumping to 15th with nary a win from their past eight games.
There is just three points separating Blackburn from the drop zone and four points between them and last-placed Wigan Athletic, and with six games left – including visits from Manchester United, Manchester City and Bolton – there is little margin for error.
Making matters worse, the club is dealing with a sudden availability crisis due to a rash of injuries.
New Zealand international Ryan Nelsen limped from the field with a knee injury during Blackburn’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham City last Saturday and will not feature in the fixture.
So too is on-loan Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz, who is battling a hamstring strain, and captain Chris Samba, who is laid low with a twisted ankle.
Add to that Steven N’Zonzi’s suspension for his red card against Arsenal, Gael Givet’s ongoing contract dispute and Kean’s apparent dislike for Nikola Kalinic and the Trotters are beginning to look thin indeed.
But in some better news, Junior Hoilett is expected to play despite suffering hamstring soreness last weekend.
The Canadian starlet fired his third goal in four games against the Blues and will be sorely needed in a Blackburn outfit short on attacking options.
The Merseyside visit will pose a test to Hoilett and his team-mates and Everton will be keen to keep their six-game unbeaten run alive.
The Toffees have staked a claim for seventh on the table with 44 points from 32 games, and could find themselves one point off sixth place and a possible Europa League berth if they win and Liverpool topple Arsenal on Sunday.
That Everton have managed to keep their season ticking along while carrying their own extensive injury list is a credit to boss David Moyes.
Moyes has had to do without a number of first-team regulars, including Tim Cahill (foot), Louis Saha (ankle), Marouane Fellaini (ankle), Mikel Arteta (hamstring) and Jack Rodwell (ankle).
Republic of Ireland international Seamus Coleman, who was shortlisted for the PFA’s Young Player of the Year award earlier this week, is also in doubt to play with a recurrence of an ankle injury.