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By ESPN Staff

Pedersen: We're getting rid of 'tough guys' tag

Morten Gamst Pedersen feels expectations are rising at Blackburn now Mark Hughes' team have finally shaken off their 'thugs' tag.

Rovers return to European action tonight for the first leg of a UEFA Cup first-round tie against Greek Cup winners Larissa.

On the back of a 15-match unbeaten Premier League and cup run, Blackburn are strong favourites to progress to the group stages of the competition.

Their brand of football is now far removed from the aggressive reputation that has so angered opposition managers and players in previous seasons.

'The longer you go without losing, then people will expect you to do well, and you get pressure,' said Norway winger Pedersen. 'In the beginning we were told we were kicking people, and when we took points from a good team it was because they were bad and we didn't do well.

'Maybe now people are looking at us as a good side. I think we're a good side, we've a good squad and we can compete with any team. We've been doing really well this season, defending really well, and we believe in ourselves. We're playing some good football.

'We work for each other, and we know each other even better this season than we did last season. Although we have some new players, it means if there are injuries then we have other players who can come straight in. We have a good squad.'

Given the strength in depth, Pedersen feels Rovers can certainly win this competition, asserting: 'Of course we can. We've just played one of the best teams in England (Chelsea) and come away with a draw.

'We can get confidence from that result, so hopefully we can go far. As long as you are in the competition then you can win it.'

One crucial factor for Hughes to take into consideration is the heat, with temperatures yesterday into the mid-30s centigrade.

It was not too much cooler when the players trained just after the 6pm kick-off time at the Panthessaliko Stadium in Volos as Larissa's Alkazar Stadium does not conform to UEFA standards.

'We will make sure we are fully hydrated so that it won't have an impact on our performance levels,' added Hughes. 'It can have an effect after a match, but only if you don't do your post-game recovery strategies correctly.

'We're very much up to speed in terms of ice baths, making sure the players eat properly as soon as possible after a game, and getting their fluid levels back up to where they need to be.

'So all that is knowledge we have, and that will help us.

'It's certainly a test that will be more difficult than some of the other European ties we've had, but then it's just another part of our learning process.'

Defender Christopher Samba is Hughes' only absentee after sustaining concussion in Saturday's goalless draw at Chelsea.