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Serie A season preview: AS Roma

AS Roma 3 hours ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 18, 2007

Hughes desperate to make semi-finals

Blackburn manager Mark Hughes could not care less about his side's performance against Arsenal tonight - provided they win and move into the Carling Cup semi-finals.

Hughes is desperate to arrest an alarming downturn in form which has seen Rovers win just one of their last seven Premier League matches.

A humiliating 5-3 defeat at struggling Wigan on Saturday was the latest setback, but Hughes insists victory over the Gunners would pour confidence into his faltering side.

The League Cup has been much maligned in recent years - Arsene Wenger will again field a virtual reserve team - but Hughes will name his strongest available line-up for the quarter-final showdown.

'I'm not particularly bothered about the performance as long as we win,' said Hughes. 'We played well against them last year in the FA Cup and won 1-0, which was a great result and a real boost for us.

'Now we just need a good result to calm everybody down.'

Rovers' fabled powers of resilience and reputation as awkward opponents were sadly lacking at the JJB Stadium on Saturday.

Dreadful defending allowed Wigan to steamroller their way into a 3-0 lead.

And despite coming back to level the scores, Rovers were again overpowered as they crashed to a heavy defeat.

'We need to be more defensively sound than we have been of late because we're shipping too many goals,' admitted Hughes. 'When that happens you haven't got that platform which allows you to express yourself further up the field.'

Hughes can at least draw encouragement from the history books.

Six years ago, Blackburn hosted Arsenal in the League Cup quarter-finals at Ewood Park.

Hughes, then approaching the twilight of his playing career, was on the scoresheet for Rovers as they destroyed Wenger's side 4-0.

'It was similar circumstances back then,' remembered Hughes. 'Arsenal came with a team that wasn't their first-choice side and that is how Arsene seems to approach the Carling Cup.

'But they still get to the latter stages, as they have done again, so we will be more than happy if history repeats itself.

'We always look to have a cup run every year and have been pretty successful with that approach with three semi-finals in three years.'

Blackburn's style of play has attracted criticism from Wenger more than once in recent seasons, but Hughes suggested referees treat his side differently to the so-called big four of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Hughes questioned referee Alan Wiley's failure to brandish any red cards in the Gunners' 1-0 win against Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Wiley booked nine players in a game which featured several ferocious challenges from both sides.

But Hughes said: 'Maybe if Blackburn Rovers players were making similar tackles, then there would have been red cards involved.

'But maybe the top teams get a little bit of the benefit of the doubt with regard to how referees actually interpret things.'