Hughes backing Rovers to deliver on promise

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The Independent Online

Blackburn Rovers manager Mark Hughes is demanding silverware from his side this season as his players are increasingly talked of as possible cup winners.

After three years in charge at Ewood Park – Hughes celebrated the anniversary with a goalless draw at Chelsea on Saturday – Rovers are finally earning respect from their peers.

Blackburn were long derided as an overly physical team, a tag that infuriated Hughes. But now Blackburn are a much more accomplished side, encouraging suggestions that they could win a trophy this season.

Ahead of tomorrow's first leg of their Uefa Cup first-round tie with Greek Cup winners Larissa, Hughes was happy to accept the plaudits, and is eager to live up to such lofty expectations.

"The aim at the beginning of every season is to win something," said Hughes. "But we're acknowledged as one of the better teams in the Premier League, and people are actually talking about us in those terms.

"That's something new for us, something we have to get used to, which raises expectations. I've always subscribed to the view you should work to those expectations, not try to dampen things down and hope to over-achieve.

"Sometimes there can be false dawns, but I just sense with this group of players we have now that the next step is to try and win some silverware if we can."

Hughes believes the current squad is the best he has worked with, adding: "We've good depth, good quality of players who can come in, so I have the option of rotating the squad if I feel the need to. I've not had to do that up until this point, but it's the first time the option has been open to me since I've been in charge."

The Uefa Cup is a competition Hughes is refusing to take lightly and he feels this year's tournament is a tough proposition. "We go with the thought of winning it, but it's very difficult because it's a harder competition to win this season given the other teams still involved," he said.

"There are top clubs around like Bayern Munich who were unable to qualify for the Champions League, so it's a very, very strong competition.

"It's probably more difficult than last year when we felt we were unlucky to exit when we did [in the last 32 to Bayer Leverkusen]. We're hoping to improve, but it's going to be more difficult."

Christopher Samba does not travel for the tie at the Panthessaliko Stadium in Volos – Larissa's Alkazar Stadium does not come up to Uefa standards – due to a head injury he sustained at Chelsea.

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