Phil Brown, the Hull City manager, has described their Premier League meeting with Blackburn Rovers tonight as their biggest match of the season.
The Tigers go into the Ewood Park encounter on the back of a draw with league leaders Chelsea and Saturday's 2-1 win over top-four hopefuls Manchester City. The victory was their first since November and helped them climb out of the bottom three and up to 14th, four points behind Blackburn.
There will be no surprises for Brown, with Rovers managed by his mentor Sam Allardyce, and he knows City must maintain their form with Blackburn looking to bounce back from the weekend's 3-0 defeat by Stoke. He said: "People have made reference to the three home games – Wolves, Chelsea and Man City – but this is the biggest game of the season. We're going to go into the lion's den with a wounded animal. A 3-0 defeat against Stoke will be hurting Sam and certainly hurting his players so they're going to be up for it.
"They've got a tremendous home record so we're up against it. He's a strong man, he's a strong manager and he's got a strong team. The fact we've come off three good results at home, we've got to put our best foot forward away from home and do sufficient to get our first win away from home."
Brown was particularly pleased with the displays of his front two, Jozy Altidore and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, on Saturday, with Altidore scoring his first Premier League goal.
The 20-year-old, who took compassionate leave last month following the devastating earthquake in his parents' homeland of Haiti, has had a slow start to his Hull career but Brown is confident he can build on his performance against City, because Blackburn will be without big defender Chris Samba following his red card against Stoke.
"He's come to the Premier League and hasn't really grabbed a hold of it but he's just settling down into some form and now he's got himself a goal so hopefully he'll go and express himself tomorrow night," said Brown of Altidore.
"Jan's unproven at Premier League level. It's always another step up coming to the Premier League in England I think and Jan's stepped up to that plate quite admirably. Now he's got a young man bustling and hustling alongside him, the both of them are causing centre-halves problems; therein lies the success. Chris Samba's a big, big miss for Sam. I know the way Sam likes to play the game and 6ft 4in is a big asset to him and, with that missing, it should be an advantage to us."
Allardyce is livid Samba will not be available. "We will lose Chris for two vital games after an unjust decision," he said. "When you see some of the tackles that went unpunished he was unfairly treated. Because there is no form of appeal, you are harshly punished again for something that should not have happened. I did a bit of research and it seems big boys get booked more than the smaller ones. That is going to go against Chris as he is 6ft 5in and he can't hide anywhere."
When Samba was sent off against Aston Villa earlier in the season, Blackburn responded by beating Wigan. Allardyce would like a similar reaction against Hull.
He said: "Chris is very dominant as a defender as well as giving us a presence in the opposition box and we will miss him. It is something we have to get over. We managed it before when he was sent off against Villa. Now we have got to try to do that against an in-form and confident Hull side."