Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray has suggested that he is hoping that defender Daniel Ayala could be back available for their Boxing Day meeting with Championship strugglers Sheffield Wednesday.
Ayala was a notable absentee from Rovers’ starting line-up against Stoke City on Saturday, with Blackburn’s defensive injury woes having been further impacted by the experienced centre-back having not recovered from a foot injury suffered against Rotherham United. That left Mowbray needing to play Bradley Johnson alongside Darragh Lenihan at the heart of his defence.
Johnson performed a solid enough role at the back, but in truth, Blackburn did not have to do much defending after Stoke had taken an early lead. Long-term injuries to both Scott Wharton and Derrick Williams have meant that Mowbray’s side are now stretched to the limit in terms of options at the heart of their defence. They will need Ayala back in action as soon as possible.
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Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph after Blackburn’s defeat at Stoke, Mowbray offered his verdict on why Johnson was chosen to partner Lenihan at the back, and also revealed his hope that Ayala can come back into contention for the game against Sheffield Wednesday.
He said: “No Wharton, no Williams, no Ayala, the choice was another young boy in the team,” Mowbray explained. “We decided to play Johno there and he didn’t have a lot to do.
“We would have preferred a centre half heading the ball away eight minutes in, it is what it is and we have to move on.
“I don’t think he had much concern, he kept the ball moving for us, he did what he had to do.
“Hopefully Daniel will be back soon because Scotty Wharton and Derrick Williams won’t be back soon, so we need Daniel.
“We’ll see how he is for Boxing Day.”
The positive news for Rovers is that Ayala’s injury against Rotherham seems just to be a minor one with the Spaniard now potentially even back in action on Boxing Day. However, the fact the experienced defender was out could suggest that Rovers might need to assess their options in January and add one more defender to ensure there is enough cover.
Ayala has suffered injury issues this season and will now be needing to prove that he can come into the side for a run of games in the coming weeks. Johnson did well in an unfamiliar role against Stoke but it is clear his talents lie in midfield and Mowbray will need him to return to that area as soon as possible.
The next few weeks are going to be hectic for Blackburn and they need Ayala to return to their defence and hope that both he and Lenihan keep themselves fully fit. Another injury to either player would leave them in a lot of trouble in terms of lack of options available to them at the heart of their defence.