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Everton v Blackburn | Match Preview

Everton and Blackburn clash; on Saturday, looking to turn their seasons around. Everton’s 10 home league games have returned eleven points, ten goals and just one clean sheet. Blackburn will be looking to improve their poor away form. Rovers have won just once away from Ewood Park; although that was at Old Trafford.

Everton have the edge over Blackburn; having lost just two of the last 13 league meetings (Won 7 Drawn 4 Lost 2). Rovers have failed to score in four of the last 6 meetings with Everton winning four of the last five encounters. Everton ended their run of defeats with a draw away to Aston Villa; last Saturday.

Blackburn won 3 – 1 at home to Fulham, despite Yakubu’s early sending off. The suspension denies Yakubu the chance to face his old team. The Nigerian has been prolific with 12 in 16 league games and will be a big miss for the away team. Everton fans often question the decision to sell a proven goal scorer and keep Louis Saha. This season, Saha averages a goal every 1,234 minutes and has scored just once.

Yakubu’s importance to Blackburn and loss to Everton is clear. Yakubu (66%) has a better shooting accuracy than the Everton team (39%). The Nigerian’s conversion rate (38%) is almost four times better than Everton’s (10%) and over twelve times better than Saha’s (3%). There is very little difference in the minutes per goal ratio with Everton faring only slightly better.

Both team’s problems are clear. Only West Brom, Wigan and QPR have scored less than Everton and only the Manchester clubs, Tottenham, Liverpool and Sunderland have conceded less. Everton’s problems are up front and have been for the best part of two years. Blackburn (44) have the second worst defence in the league with only Bolton (46) conceding more. Scoring hasn’t been a problem, for Blackburn, with only the top five registering more.

Blackburn captain, Christopher Samba, handed in a transfer request this week and could be left out. Everton will also be without a first choice centre back as Phil Jagielka remains absent with a knee ligament injury. Both players rank the highest, within their respective teams, in the four categories shown below and their importance to their teams is clear.

Both teams boast uncommon statistics leaders in vital categories. Within the Everton squad, Leighton Baines ranks highest in chances created (49), passes in the opposition half (760), passes in the final third (383) and successful dribbles (20). Blackburn’s best tacklers are creative players; another uncommon statistic. Mauro Formica has won the most tackles; within the Blackburn squad (44/49; 90% success rate). Ruben Rochina has made the second highest amount of tackles (29/38; 76% success rate).

Everton are battling an ever-growing injury list; eased slightly by the return of Tim Cahill against Aston Villa. Sylvain Distin (Hamstring) is still absent so Shane Duffy will continue at centre back. Tony Hibbert (Groin) is back in training and may return to the squad whilst Jack Rodwell (Hamstring) is  doubtful. Leon Osman (Knee), Seamus Coleman (Thigh) and Ross Barkley (Knee) remain sidelined.

Victor Anichebe will be pushing for a start after a goal scoring cameo against Villa. Apostolos Vellios pushed his own claims, with a hat trick, for the reserves, in midweek.  Both will look to start in place of the misfiring Cahill and Saha partnership. Cahill hasn’t scored in 34 matches and Saha has gone 887 minutes since his last Premier League goal. A case for Saha’s inclusion is his ten career goals against Blackburn.

Blackburn may choose to leave out Samba; after his transfer request, as he remains doubtful (Illness). Scott Dan will return after recovering from a ruptured testicle. Yakubu is out through suspension whilst Vince Grella (Thigh) and Michel Salgado (Rib) both remain sidelined.

The key to victory could be in midfield and, in particular, the battle between Marouane Fellaini and Steven N’Zonzi. Both rank highest, within their teams, in many important categories. Passes: Fellaini (928) N’Zonzi (1042) Aerial duels won: Fellaini (47) N’Zonzi (58) Ground duels won: Fellaini (108) N’Zonzi (117). Fellaini has made the most tackles for Everton (36/42; 86% success rate).

Both sides are dangerous from set pieces with 18% of each team’s chances coming from dead ball situations. Everton hold the edge in terms of passing ability and ball retention (Open Play: 77%; Overall: 73%) in comparison to Blackburn (Open Play: 73%; Overall: 69%). The Toffees will try to use this to their advantage as they aim to turn their poor home form around.

A win for Everton could move them back into the top half; as high as 9th. Three points for Blackburn could see them leapfrog Wolves into 16th with Rovers out of the bottom three on goal difference. Both sides struggle at opposite ends of the pitch, so expect an intriguing match; if nothing else.

Match Facts

Blackburn have kept just 1 clean sheet in their last 29 Premier League away games

Everton have scored a penalty in 3 of their last 4 Premier League games against Blackburn

Blackburn are the first team to fail, to keep a clean sheet, in their 1st 21 Premier League games

Saturday’s match falls on Phil Neville’s 35th Birthday

There has been a 90th minute winner in 3 of the last 7 league meetings between Everton and Blackburn

Luke O'Farrell
Luke O'Farrell
Write about Everton for ESPN and EPL Index. Evertonian with a keen interest in the tactical and statistical. Twitter: @lukeofarrell
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