The Reebok Stadium is bound to play host to one of the most emotional occasions in Premier League history on Saturday when Bolton Wanderers play their first match since the horrific collapse of Fabrice Muamba that united the football world.
The 23-year-old former England Under-21 international suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch at White Hart Lane during Bolton’s FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur and at 6pm on Saturday, everybody in football was fearing the worst.
Yet thanks to the fantastic work of the medical team at White Hart Lane, including cardiologist Dr Andrew Deaner, a Spurs fan at the match who ran onto the pitch to aid the resuscitation, Muamba is, at the time of writing, showing great signs of improvement and it seems as though he is through the worst.
Considering that Muamba was technically dead for 78 minutes, his recovery has been described as ‘miraculous’ and it has to be noted that Bolton Wanderers – especially manager Owen Coyle and club captain Kevin Davies – have acted with great strength and dignity in what has been a terrifying ordeal for everybody connected with the club.
Coyle spent the days after Saturday at Muamba’s bedside at the London Chest Hospital but with the former Arsenal midfielder’s condition improving, the Scot left London to start training with the squad on Wednesday in preparation for Saturday’s match with Blackburn Rovers.
Whatever the result, let us all continue to hope that Muamba goes on to make a full recovery. Some things are more important than football.
Bolton have agreed that they will now begin to fulfil their fixtures again following the postponement of Tuesday’s match against Aston Villa.
And with the club and the Premier League deciding that that it is time to get on with the football, I suppose that we all must follow suit, even if writing about making money from this particular match seems somewhat insensitive.
Bolton are the 27/20 favourites to win this vital relegation clash in bwin’s 3way market, with the draw at 12/5 and Blackburn priced up at 37/20.
The events of last week make this match extremely difficult to judge. While everyone at Bolton will desperately want to win for Muamba – the importance of the match will probably only register afterwards – after the torrid week the club has endured, can they possibly be expected to perform at the required level for such a big local derby?
Coyle has already admitted that Bolton ‘could struggle to compete’ on Saturday and on a day when emotions will be running high, it might be case of the occasion being too much for many of the players to cope with.
As such, I think Blackburn are in good shape to take advantage and they are the recommended bet at 37/20. After two straight wins, four goals and two clean sheets, Steve Kean finally has something to smile about.
By following up their 2-0 win at Wolves with a 2-0 victory over Sunderland at Ewood Park in midweek, Blackburn find themselves with a five-point cushion over Bolton in 18th and a win on Saturday would open up the kind of gap that, with games running out, could prove unassailable.
With Junior Hoilett and Yakubu in such fine form, Rovers have a real goal threat and have failed to score only once in their 14 away games. Bolton have lost nine home games as it is, conceding 28 goals in the process, and with everything that has gone on it could just be Blackburn’s day.
Yet whatever the result, let us all continue to hope that Muamba goes on to make a full recovery. Some things are more important than football.
Recommended bet: Blackburn to beat Bolton @ 37/20
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