Millwall are back in league action on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 3pm) as we begin our 2018/19 Sky Bet Championship away campaign at Ewood Park against promoted Blackburn Rovers, our first meeting since the 2014/15 season.
With both sides having started their respective campaigns with 2-2 draws on the opening weekend, there are three big points to play for in Lancashire as the two teams hunt for that elusive first win.
Based at Ewood Park since the 19th century, Blackburn Rovers were founded in 1875 and have since won 15 trophies at senior level, along with 18 regional honours.
Rovers immediately bounced back to The Championship at the end of last season, promoted alongside Wigan Athletic and Rotherham United after a one-year absence. The club last competed in the Premier League in 2011/12 before their relegation, subsequently having not returned to the top flight since.
Blackburn’s decorated history most famously includes their Premier League triumph of 1995 under Kenny Dalglish, inspired by the prolific Alan Shearer – the club represent one of just six ever winners of the League since its inception 26 years ago. Rovers have also won two previous English titles, alongside six FA Cups and one League Cup, in 2002.
Ones to Watch
Goalkeeper David Raya was a major contributor to Blackburn’s promotion success last term, keeping 17 clean sheets – only bettered by Wigan Athletic’s Christian Walton. The young Spaniard has excelled in a Rovers shirt in the past year, amassing 45 league appearances during the season after working his way up from the academy side at Ewood Park. Born in Barcelona, Raya started his professional career with a loan spell at Southport, before making his league debut for Blackburn in April 2015. After the departure of Jason Steele following relegation to League One, the 22-year-old became first choice, repaying Tony Mowbray with some assured performances as the team made their Championship return.
Captain Charlie Mulgrew particularly shone last season, steering Rovers to promotion with both his defensive ability and eye for goal. The Scotsman was one of four to represent the Lancashire side in the PFA League One Team of the Year last campaign, racking up 14 goals, four assists and leading the third-best defence in the division. A versatile, reliable set-piece specialist and seasoned professional, Mulgrew constitutes part of an impressive spine in the Blackburn team. The 32-year-old Glaswegian began his career at Celtic, before a spell in England with Wolves and Southend United. Returning north, Mulgrew joined Aberdeen before a six-year stint back at Celtic Park, winning seven trophies. Arriving at Ewood Park in 2016, the Scotland international has 36 caps and counting for his country.
Bradley Dack has been one of the most talked-about talents in the EFL over the past few seasons. Still only 24, the attack-minded midfielder is into his seventh season in league football, having burst onto the scene at Gillingham. Dack – along with Mulgrew – made League One’s star team last time out, a feat he also managed in a 15-goal 2015/16 season with his former side, and went one further to pick up the division’s Player of the Season award. A tenacious and fearless goal-scoring midfield player, Dack has shown the ability to dictate several matches and his first season at Championship level has been highly anticipated. The former Charlton Athletic youth-teamer made his Gills debut in 2012, going on to make 185 appearances and scoring 38 times. Earning a move to Rovers, Dack signed at Ewood Park in the summer of 2017, going on to be voted the League’s best player after 18 goals and eight assists, and is subsequently one of the most coveted assets at the club.
Danny Graham is an experienced striker proven at all levels of the English game. The former England youth international fired 14 goals in blue and white last season, along with notching eight assists in his first League One season since 2009. Graham was another of Blackburn’s squad to make the PFA League One Team of the Year last season, and achieved the same status in The Championship’s team of 2010/11 in a prolific campaign at Watford. The 32-year-old has also donned the colours of the likes of Swansea City, Sunderland and Middlesbrough for considerable spells down the years. Having spent several seasons in the Premier League and scored over 150 career goals, the hitman will be key to Rovers’ fortunes this campaign as he spearheads Mowbray’s attack.
In the Dugout
Tony Mowbray has been in the management game for 16 years, picking up various awards – both with his clubs and individually. Mowbray arrived at Ewood Park in February 2017, and bounced the club straight back up to The Championship in his first full season. The 54-year-old’s best win rate to date has come with Rovers, overseeing victories in over 52% of his games so far. Mowbray has both played for and managed Celtic, Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough – his local club for whom he played over 350 games – and won the Championship in charge of West Bromwich Albion in 2008. Having also taken the reins at Hibernian and Coventry City, Mowbray has been a popular figure wherever he has been, and has been tasked with re-establishing Blackburn Rovers as a force to be reckoned with in The Championship.