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OPINION: Daniel Ayala ‘holds the key’ to Blackburn Rovers’ top-six hopes this season

Blackburn Rovers signed former Liverpool, Derby County and Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala in the summer.

The 30-year-old has had a stop-start season owing to injury.

It comes after a summer of speculation following his refusal of a Boro contract – Leeds United eventually rejected the chance to sign Ayala, whilst Swansea City were also in the running.

Blackburn though would capture Ayala and he’s since made five Championship appearances.

He came in early in the draw at Brentford yesterday following an injury to Scott Wharton and he could well be in-line for a starting position in the coming weeks, should Wharton be sidelined.

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Ayala made 176 league appearances for Middlesbrough.

The club captain was a huge favourite among fans but he seemingly fell out with the club, having endured a tough campaign last time round.

He managed 25 Championship appearances for Boro last season, again owing to injury, but again proving a worthy name at the back when called upon.

Neil Warnock would no doubt have liked to keep hold of the Spaniard but now at Blackburn, under the experience and guile of Tony Mowbray, Ayala could well prove the ‘pivot’ in Blackburn’s promotion hopes.

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They emerged out of nowhere to become top-six contenders last season but would drop off the pace after the restart.

Again this season, they’re proving hard to beat having not lost in their last seven Championship games, and sitting in 9th-place of the table for their midweek trip to Bristol City.

Goals aren’t an issue for Rovers – 31 scored in the Championship so far – but defensively they need reassurance. If he can maintain fitness, then Ayala could well be the final piece in Mowbray’s puzzle.

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