Blackburn, Bolton square up in battle of basement

Blackburn, Bolton square up in battle of basement

LONDON - Reuters
Blackburn, Bolton square up in battle of basement

Tonight’s league game against Bolton Wanderers may decide Steve Kean’s future as Blackburn Rovers coach. REUTERS photo

While Manchester City and Manchester United fight to spend Christmas Day top of the Premier League, bottom teams Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers are squaring up for a derby that could see the losing manager axed from his job.

The intense pressure on the unpopular Rovers manager Steve Kean has been compounded by fan groups and local media calling for his resignation, while Owen Coyle’s Bolton go into tonight’s match at Blackburn, just 18 kilometers down the road, on the back of five consecutive losses.

Bolton, who is bottom, has won only three of its 16 league matches and has only nine points while Rovers are just one point and one place above the Wanderers on 10.

“Stick with us. With a game that is as important as this, stick with us,” Kean pleaded to Rovers fans yesterday despite their regular demands for his sacking all season.

Bolton manager Coyle believes the clash with Blackburn is “probably the biggest game of the season for both clubs.”

“We have to make sure that we’re ready to be on the front foot and be really positive and go and win the game,” he told reporters.

The position of Rovers manager Kean was further undermined by a local newspaper publically calling for the Blackburn board to sack the Scot yesterday, a highly unusual move by local press usually supportive of its League club.

As the Rovers board is set to meet tomorrow, speculation suggests a loss to Bolton could spell the end of Kean’s year-long tenure.

Wolverhampton Wanderers will meet Norwich in the other Premier League match tonight.

At the more glamorous end of the table, leader Manchester City, whose win over Arsenal on Sunday took it to 41 points, is at home to Stoke City hoping to extend its lead over its Manchester rivals, who is two points behind.

United beat Queens Park Rangers 2-0 on Sunday to briefly dislodge City from top spot and Alex Ferguson’s men return to London tomorrow to face erratic Fulham.

Another intriguing battle sees third-placed Tottenham Hotspur face fourth-placed Chelsea at White Hart
Lane. Spurs have the chance of opening up a five point lead, with a game in hand, over their London rivals.

Liverpool, who is on 29 points along with Arsenal, has not given up on its own Champions League ambitions and seeks a win tomorrow against rejuvenated Wigan.