Ipswich Town return from the international break with their first match of the Easter weekend - a trip to Blackburn Rovers on Good Friday. Alex Jones previews the action.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kieffer Moore played 120 minutes for Wales on Tuesday nightKieffer Moore played 120 minutes for Wales on Tuesday night (Image: PA)

A busy break

While most of Town’s first-team squad have been able to stay in Suffolk and train at Playford Road, five players have been away representing their countries during the international break.

Goalkeeper Cieran Slicker started for Scotland under-21’s, who beat Kazakhstan in Euro U21 qualifying, while Jeremy Sarmiento returned to the Ecuador national team. Although it was nice to see the on-loan winger start against Guatemala and Italy, he might be a bit worn out after travelling back from New York.

Similarly, Cameron Burgess also started twice, helping Australia reach the third round of World Cup qualifying. The turnaround from the Socceroos’ 2-0 win against Lebanon on Tuesday morning to Town’s game at Blackburn tonight may be too sharp, given that he’s got to come all the way back from the southeast coast of the country.

At least Welsh duo Kieffer Moore and Nathan Broadhead have a much shorter journey, although how they’re feeling after their heartbreaking penalty-shootout defeat to Poland is another matter.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kieran McKenna's side still have 24 points to play for this seasonKieran McKenna's side still have 24 points to play for this season (Image: Ross Halls)

Eight to go

The general consensus is that the final 10 matches of a Championship season are considered the run-in, but with the international break falling just before Easter weekend, this now feels like the home stretch.

Eight games to go, so 24 points left to play for. It’s not out of the equation that Town could end up around the 100-point mark, but they have some difficult games coming up.

Southampton head to Portman Road on April 1st, and the East Anglian derby against Norwich creeps up just a few days later. The final week of the campaign also looks daunting, with trips to play-off chasing duo Hull City and Coventry City to come.

Why not be confident though? Ipswich have little to lose and everything to gain. The expectation from this point is that Leeds United and Leicester City will march on to automatic promotion, and that could give Town a chance to go about their business quietly and keep picking up wins.

East Anglian Daily Times: Championship leaders Leeds United will travel to Watford tonightChampionship leaders Leeds United will travel to Watford tonight (Image: PA)

The state of play

Ipswich sit third in the table on 81 points, which is remarkable. They're just one point behind league leaders Leeds and second-place Leicester, although the Foxes boast a game in hand.

Southampton sit eight points behind in fourth place, although they have two games in hand on Town and will face all three teams above them in the table before the end of the season.

Essentially, the race is wide open, and all four teams are in action at different times today. Leicester are up first, travelling to Bristol City for a 12:30pm kick-off. Southampton will then host Middlesbrough at 3pm, with Town at Blackburn at 5:30pm and Leeds heading to Watford at 8pm.

It means that the spotlight will be pointed on each of them throughout the afternoon. That being said, the promotion picture is unlikely to be much clearer at the end of it.

East Anglian Daily Times: Blackburn Rovers are sat just three points above the relegation zoneBlackburn Rovers are sat just three points above the relegation zone (Image: PA)

Tight at the bottom

If you thought the top of the Championship was tight, the relegation battle is on a whole other level.

Rotherham United are cut adrift, but Sheffield Wednesday in 23rd and Millwall in 16th are separated by just five points. All it would take is one or two poor results to get dragged into it.

Blackburn are absolutely in that conversation, sitting three points above the relegation zone. They’ve won just one league game since December 12th (3-1 at home to Stoke City) and have one of the hardest run-ins in the entire division.

With some of the teams in and around them beginning to find form, they need to improve incredibly quickly. If not, there’s every chance that the former Premier League champions end up dropping back down to League One for the first time since 2017/18.

East Anglian Daily Times: John Eustace has introduced a more defensive approach at Ewood ParkJohn Eustace has introduced a more defensive approach at Ewood Park (Image: PA)

Rovers’ shift in style

Jon Dahl Tomasson almost guided Blackburn to a top-six finish last season, missing out on the final day despite winning at Millwall. Results are obviously important, but so is style of play, and the Dane played an attacking brand of football that was glorious to watch yet borderline kamikaze.

With the young, attacking talent at his disposal, it was probably the best approach to have. He helped Sammie Szmodics become the top goalscorer in the entire division, and had his side sat seventh in the table in December.

But the January transfer window was a disaster. Rovers’ form nosedived around the same period, and Tomasson ended up falling out with the board. That ultimately cost him his job, with John Eustace coming in to replace him.

Eustace was seen as a solid, if not spectacular appointment, but his style was totally different to that of his predecessor. His defence-first mentality has seen Blackburn tighten up at the back, but they’ve really struggled going forward in recent weeks, scoring just six goals in their last eight games. Town bagged the same amount in just 90 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday last time out.

East Anglian Daily Times: Wes Burns will miss today's game through injuryWes Burns will miss today's game through injury (Image: Ross Halls)

Who could play?

There’s certainly a few dilemmas for Kieran McKenna ahead of today’s game, most of which have arisen during the international break.

Burgess played for Australia in Canberra as recently as Tuesday. He’s faced a short turnaround to travel from the other end of the world to get back to Suffolk ahead of a long trip to Lancashire, and it may just be too much for him.

Moore’s journey back from Cardiff was much, much shorter, but he looked absolutely shattered after playing 120 minutes for Wales as they missed out on a place at Euro 2024 on penalties. Broadhead, who only played the latter stages of extra time, is unlikely to face the same issue.

George Edmundson, who last played for Town on February 10th, would be the most likely replacement for Edmundson, while Ali Al-Hamadi could be handed his first start for the club if Moore needs a rest.

Omari Hutchinson will surely come in for Wes Burns, who’s ruled out with a hamstring injury. Other than that, McKenna should have a fully fit squad to choose from.

That being said, the manager will be cautious not to run his players into the ground. Not only do they have a big clash against Southampton coming up on Easter Monday, but the East Anglian derby against Norwich City isn't far away either.