Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray says his side’s central defensive partnership of Darragh Lenihan and Tosin Adarabioyo must enjoy the challenge of facing Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic when the two sides meet at Ewood Park on Saturday afternoon.
Mitrovic made a goalscoring return from injury in the Cottager’s 3-2 win over Huddersfield last week, taking him to 19 league goals for the campaign, the joint highest tally in the Championship this season.
The first of those 19 goals came in the Cottagers’ 2-0 win over Blackburn at Craven Cottage back in the second weekend of the season, and Rovers will be keen to avoid a repeat of that on Saturday.
That defeat was Adarabioyo’s debut for the club following the completion of his loan move from Manchester City, with Derrick Williams having filled in for the injured Lenihan in the other centre back position that day.
Lenihan and Adarabioyo now look to have firmly established themselves as Rovers’ first-choice central defensive partnership this season, and speaking about the challenge they will face in the form of Mitrovic on Saturday, Mowbray told the Lancashire Telegraph: “I think both physically and just his cleverness of where to run as a striker.
“He knows where he needs to be when the ball is coming into the box. Mitrovic stands between the sticks, the ball comes in and he scores.
“He’s got the physical quality, he wins headers, can hold people off, he brings team-mates in.”
Discussing how he expects his defenders to cope with that challenge, Mowbray continued: “He’s just a good player in our league.
“I thought our defenders did pretty well against him earlier in the season, Darragh was injured and Derrick played, Tosin played well that day, but Mitrovic did score the second goal.
“They should look forward to it. I know when I played I looked forward to playing against the biggest players with the biggest reputations to test yourself and that’s what our defenders need to do.
They have to go and show what good players they are and try and snuff out their main threat.”
This battle should certainly be a fascinating aspect of this meeting between the two sides.
Having suffered yet another setback with regards to their own attacking options following the loss of Lewis Holtby for the rest of the season through injury, keeping Mitrovic and co. quiet at the other end of the pitch could be crucial to Rovers’ hopes of getting something out of this game.
While they did do reasonably well to keep Fulham and Mitrovic quiet in the reverse fixture, it was not enough to get anything from the match, meaning they will surely have to up their game from that performance.
The availability of Lenihan in their backline is something that should help them to do that, and it would be yet another boost for his ever-growing reputation if he was to keep arguably the division’s best striker at bay for 90 minutes at Ewood Park.