This will be our fourth and final match against Blackburn this season. They are beginning to improve and are snapping at the heels of both Bolton and QPR as they bid to climb out of the relegation zone, so we can expect a tough game as they look to push on and put a run together.
Indeed, Rovers have only lost one of their last five league games and claimed wins over Manchester United and the best team in Europe – Fulham – in the process. Their last game was an away draw at ever industrious Everton. So, Steve Kean’s men are beginning to have a bit of belief about them and will no doubt be looking to grab the three points this Wednesday before a tough run of fixtures including Arsenal, Man City and a crunch six-pointer clash against QPR in the next four games.
Want away defender Christopher Samba is expected to be drafted back into the squad following being dropped at Everton. There is no sign of a return for Ryan Nelsen (knee) or Vincenzo Grella (hip), whilst leading scorer Yakubu misses out thanks to his sending off against Fulham. Midfielder Mauro Formica could well be gone by the time this fixture comes around amidst strong speculation he is set to join Greek outfit Olympiakos. Meanwhile, Jason Roberts has joined Reading.
Squad from: Robinson, Bunn, Salgado, Olsson, Samba, Givet, Dann, Hanley, Henley, Dunn, Formica, Pedersen, Petrovic, N’zonzi, Vukcevic, Lowe, Rochina, Blackman, Hoilett, Goodwillie.
Senegal duo Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are both due to return from the African Cup of Nations (ACON) after being knocked out earlier than expected, but may be kept back in order to be well rested for the Aston Villa game. Again Sammy Ameobi (knee), Sylvain Marveaux (groin) and Steven Taylor (achilles) are all out for the long term, whilst Cheik Tiote is still at the ACON with Cote D’Ivoire.
Squad from: Krul, Elliot, Simpson, Perch, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Ferguson, Obertan, Ben Arfa, Ryan Taylor, Gosling, Guthrie, Smith, Cabaye, Abeid, Gutierrez, Best, Ba, Ameobi, Cisse, Lovenkrands.
Shamrock’s Really Interesting Top 10 Facts And Stats:
1 – Newcastle have not won at Ewood Park since 2006, when Obafemi Martins (2) and Steven Taylor scored in a 3-1 win. Results since then have been 3-1, 3-0 and most recently – 0-0 last season.
2 – There have been 15 Blackburn v Newcastle Premier League fixtures, with the Toon winning just twice and managing five draws. This is one of the toughest places for us to travel it would seem. In fact, we did not record a win at Ewood Park for 15 years in the league (1990-2005) at one point.
3 – With our recent loss to Fulham in mind, I’ll mention that our lowest point during that barren run came in 2002, when we got hammered 5-2. That game saw Nikos Dabizas sent off early on and Alan Shearer grab a brace that took him over 300 career goals. It took us only five months to get our own back though – we mashed them up 5-1 in the return fixture.
4 – Newcastle – along with West Brom and Wigan – have conceded more penalties than anybody else in the Premier League this season, with seven. However, Wigan and West Brom have managed to pull off a save or two from those penalties. We have only managed to stop one. Blackburn have only conceded two goals from the penalties they gave away. Meanwhile, they have scored four out of the five they have been awarded. We have only managed to win and score two. The only side not to concede a penalty kick so far this season is Fulham.
5 – If they play, Danny Simpson and Tim Krul will be the only players from both Blackburn’s and Newcastle’s respective squads to feature in every Premier League game this season to date.
6 – Morten Gamst Pedersen features in the top 15 players this season when it comes to assists, with six to his name. Top spot goes to probably the best player in the Premier League – Man City’s David Silva (13) – but second place is shared by several players on seven, including Nani, Gareth Bale and Chris Brunt.
7 – Although Rovers have lost 12 times this season, eith of those games were by a margin of just one goal. They have only lost by more than two goals once – showing they are tougher than some might think.
8 – Blackburrn (33) have actually outscored Newcastle (32) so far this season. The difference however, has been the respective defences. We have shipped in just 30, compared to Rovers’ 40.
9 – Dan Gosling turns 22-years-old the following morning after this game. He has only played against Blackburn twice during his short career – once during a 3-0 Everton win and once during our recent 2-1 FA Cup win. They say they come in threes!
10 – The All-Time Premier League table has Blackburn in 9th place with 957 points. Newcastle are in 8th place with 988 points. Slightly on a tangent here, but……Considering how the Mackems think they are on a par with us due to our recent relegation, I’d like to point out that they have accumulated only 422 Premier League points to date – less than half of what we have achieved. That leaves them in 17th position, 211 points behind Championship side Middlesborough!
Tactical thoughts and ponderings:
I’m not going to bleat on this week. We have talked about Blackburn several times this season already and if you readers feel anything like me, then you will be sick of discussing them. So, here is a new layout for the times when it’s best to keep it short and sweet.
– Have a dedicated anchorman from midfield. Blackburn will be putting a lot of pressure on us from crosses (Pedersen) and runs (Hoilett). Our defence will be stretched and will find it hard to stay disciplined, so somebody has to help them out.
– Target Christopher Samba. He is openly fed up with this relegation fight. He wants out and Rovers wont let him go. Put him under consistent pressure when he’s in possession of the ball. Give him constant verbal stick about not being good enough to play for a better club and how many goals Rovers have shipped in this season with him in their back line he just might crack and get sent off.
– Encourage both Guthrie and Cabaye to take long shots from the edge of the box. They are excellent from this range and should try it more often, if they don’t score, they just might draw a save that results in a rebound strike from our forwards.
– Coloccini and Williamson to be more aggressive and show the Rovers forwards who is boss. I don’t know what it is about Blackburn, but the Carling Cup loss and recent FA Cup win showed that our defence just switch off against them and let Rovers bully them at times. We know Colo and Willo are not the best in the air, but Blackburn will relentlessly pump the high balls into our box. Our defensive pairing need to man up this time.
– Let Pedersen have time on the ball. He has a deadly cross on him and has to be closed down quickly in order to stop Colo and Willo getting beaten in the air.
– Play Gabriel Obertan. He had a shocker in the Cup game against Rovers and was hooked off early. If he is a confidence player, then putting in against the side that made him look like an amateur recently is not advised.
– Let Tim Krul punt the ball upfield too often. His long-range kicking is not up to scratch, cut it out and give us a chance to keep possession. Cabaye, Guthrie, Santon, Benny and Guti can all do wonderful things with the ball at their feet – but none of them can head. It’s not rocket science!
– Expect too much from Papiss Cisse if he plays. Yes, he has great pedigree and looks awesome – but this is a foreign land and one of the more physical sides in an already physical league. He needs time to bed in and get up to speed.
– Dare play with the lack of hunger, desire or drive that they demonstrated against Brighton. We deserve to see some real effort this time!
48-year-old Stoke born Phil Dowd will be taking the helm for this one. He has over 10 years experience as a Select Group Referee and took the League Cup Final of 2010. We will remember him as the man in the middle for our awesome comeback from four goals down against Arsenal this time last year and also the 5-1 victory over Sunderland in October 2010.
In total, he has taken us 19 times in all competitions. We have won seven, lost seven and drawn five. For Blackburn, he has taken then 24 times. Like us, they have lost seven, but won twelve… This will be the first time has taken charge of these two clubs for a fixture of any kind.
Howay the lads!
Venue: Ewood Park
Date: Wednesday 1st February 2012
Kick Off: 20:00