Match Preview: Blackburn Rovers v Barnsley

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After the disappointment of the Boxing Day postponement, Rovers return to action as they host struggling Barnsley under the Ewood lights. Daniel Ainsworth previews the match below.

With all the uncertainty surrounding sporting events currently, it is nice to have a match to look forward to as the signs from both camps is the fixture will be going ahead.

High-flying Rovers have had time to reflect on the disappointment, correctly described as a ‘shambles’ by Rovers midfielder Bradley Dack, but this needs to be put to one side now as the focus moves back to the football.

For all involved at the club, it has been an incredible season so far, and the team will look to continue to defy expectations as strugglers Barnsley visit town.

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Just two wins in the first half of the season, the Tykes are looking almost certain to be returning to the third tier of English football three years after they gained promotion.

They are yet to win under new manager Poya Asbaghi, although the Swedish-Iranian manager has tightened up the Barnsley defence since joining.

BARNSLEY, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 24: Poya Asbaghi, Manager of Barnsley shouts instructions during the Sky Bet Championship match between Barnsley and Swansea City at Oakwell Stadium on November 24, 2021 in Barnsley, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

The Yorkshire outfit defied expectations under Valerien Ismail last season, finishing in the play-off spots, with this season similar to the 2019-20 season in which they escaped relegation on the final day.

Shifting the focus back to Rovers, Tony Mowbray’s men have now settled on a formation and a system that works, and one of many positives is the depth in terms of options on the bench.

The fact that Daniel Ayala and Tyrhys Dolan, both of whom were regular starters earlier in the season, cannot make it into the side currently is evidence of how impressive the first team has been.

Of course, their opportunities will come, and the incentive will be there to perform as Mowbray’s selections this season have shown that he will keep the consistent performers in the side.

The forward two of Ben Brereton Diaz and Reda Khadra have complimented each other well since their pairing, with both scoring last time out against Birmingham.

Rovers’ midfield three of Lewis Travis, Joe Rothwell and John Buckley pick themselves these days, as do the wing-back options of Ryan Nyambe and Harry Pickering.

What strikes me the most about the current starting eleven is how well the back three of Jan Paul van Hecke, Darragh Lenihan and Scott Wharton compliment each other.

The latter has established himself as a solid defender at this level after several loan spells in League Two, and barring injury, he will not miss a game for the rest of the season.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 27: Blackburn Rovers’ Scott Wharton during the Sky Bet Championship match between Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers at Bet365 Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Mick Walker – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Lenihan has shown his leadership qualities alongside the lesser experienced centre-halfs, whilst van Hecke’s influence since signing on loan further shows Mowbray’s ability to work well in the loan market.

The entire team compliments each other well, and added to the camaraderie and fight of the side, it has all come together to make what has been an incredibly successful season so far.

With all this said, I’m expecting to see Rovers pick up another three points this evening as they face a Barnsley side with just two wins to their name all season.

I’m more than aware of this being a potential banana skin fixture for the team, but given their professionalism to blow away sides this season, I’m expecting the same here.

Enjoy the match if you’re attending, or watching from home or elsewhere.

Predicted XI: Kaminski, Nyambe, Lenihan, van Hecke, Wharton, Pickering, Travis, Rothwell, Buckley, Khadra, Brereton Diaz

Prediction: Rovers 4-0 Barnsley

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