When the Premier League season kicks off, so does the fantasy football campaign. Blackburn Rovers' problem at the moment seems to be telling the difference between the two.
In the minds of some at Ewood Park, Rovers can attract stars of the world game such as Raul, will be in the Champions League in a few years and should have taken points from both their opening matches. To outsiders, the reality appears rather different, and an unconvincing performance against Aston Villa on Saturday makes the Championship a more likely prospect than Uefa's elite competition.
The distance between fantasy and reality may be affecting the players. Michel Salgado, a former team-mate of Raul at Real Madrid, does not sound as if any texts to his old mucker at the Bernabeu would have painted a tempting picture of life in Blackburn.
"We are talking about new signings and crap like that, but we need to focus in the games because the Premier League is too demanding and too tight," he said. "We don't know if new signings are coming or if any other players are leaving.
"[The owners] were talking about Champions League in three or four years. You ask if that's put pressure on the team – maybe there is a little bit. It's not that good. Sometimes when new owners come in and talk about new signings and a new era, it's a good thing because it gives you a boost. But now we have to be realistic and get points every weekend.
"We've lost a very important player in Phil Jones. I can understand that because it was a big chance for him at Manchester United. But we don't know what'll happen with [injured Arsenal target] Chris Samba. I think you have to talk positive as there are so many negative things around the club."
No such problems for Villa, who looked an attacking threat despite the departures of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing. Charles N'Zogbia made a quiet debut on one wing, but Gabriel Agbonlahor was electric on the other,
Equally eye-catching was the performance of Fabian Delph in the centre of midfield, 18 months on from an anterior cruciate ligament injury. "We paid a big fee for him as a precocious talent and he's shown me he's got a lot to offer," Alex McLeish, the Villa manager, said.
Scorers: Aston Villa Agbonlahor 12, Heskey 25, Bent 67. Blackburn Pedersen 52.
Aston Villa Albrighton 5 (Agbonlahor, h-t), Clark 6 (Young, 56), Bannan 6 (Heskey, 66).
Blackburn Petrovic 4 (Pedersen, 75), Formica 4 (Roberts, 75).
Booked: Aston Villa Delph, Petrov, Heskey. Blackburn none.
Man of the match Delph.
Ref S Attwell (Warwickshire).
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