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Blackburn v Newcastle | Opta Stat Attack

Tonight will see the Mighty Magpies face Blackburn Rovers for the 4th time this season – 2 wins and 1 defeat the record. Back in September, you will probably remember the ever-impressing Demba Ba bagging his first hat trick for the club in the 3-1 home win against Rovers in the Premier League, a game where at the time, clubs were still figuring each other out.

Some 4 months down the line, NUFC find themselves in the top 6 of England’s elite, whereas for Blackburn, the very real prospect of a relegation war hanging over them. The question is; what do Blackburn have in store this time? 

Blackburn – In the PL

The Lancashire side are currently the 2nd most aggressive side in the league after bullies Chelsea, nothing up 43 yellow cards and 3 reds.

Relating to that, Rovers commit the 2nd most fouls per game after Wigan Athletic – 12.8 per game on average.

They have the 2nd lowest possession rating after Stoke City, with a miserly 42.5% of possession on average in Premier League games.

Further to that, only Bolton and Stoke have worst pass success rates, just 72.9% of Blackburn’s passes are accurate at present.

Blackburn do however produce the 2nd most interceptions per game after Bolton Wanderers (18.6). For reference, NUFC currently intercept the ball 15.6 times per game, which is the 11th best in the Premier League.

They have scored the 2nd most set piece goals after Manchester City. With 12, they are 7 ahead of NUFC.

But, they produce the lowest crosses per game in whole division, just 16 per game – surprising considering some of their strongest players are wide men.

They also produce the 2nd fewest short passes per game after Stoke City (279).

And, they have the lowest % of initiated attacks in the Premier League from the right hand side – 28% only NUFC have a lower % of shots coming from the right hand side, meaning Santon and Gutierrez should be able to apply some extensive attacking pressure.

Blackburn are the only team yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League this season and they have lost more points from games than any other team – drawn 4 when winning and lost 2 when winning – 14 points they’ve chucked away!

Who to keep an eye on:

Yakubu – The Nigerian has 12 goals in his 15 Premier League starts and 21 shots on target from 39 (66%), getting a shot on target every 60.38 minutes. Whilst not as mobile as he once was, ‘The Yak’ has great ability to get ‘pot shots’ away and still has good pace over short distances.

Mauro Formica – The Argentine stops the most dribbles per game in the entire Premier League (1.8), so there’s little point in driving the ball in his direction!

David Hoilett – With 2.9 dribbles per game, he is the league’s top dribbler. He also also creates the 2nd most chances at Blackburn Rovers and has more assists at the club than any other player Blackburn (4).

Morten Gamst Pedersen – The Norwegian creates the most chances at Blackburn Rovers (34), mainly from set plays (17) and he is their top crosser by a ‘country mile’, with 119 crosses thus far compared to 42 by Hoilett who fares 2nd.

Steven N’Zonzi – The Frenchman will look to control the game for Blackburn. Their ‘pass master’ has played 1117 passes in the Premier League, over 400 more than 2nd placed Pedersen, at an 82% pass rate.

NUFC of late

6 from 8 open play goals conceded by NUFC (Courtesy of Guardian chalkboards)
6 from 8 open play goals conceded by NUFC (Courtesy of Guardian chalkboards) Click to Enlarge

A look through the recent goals against archive doesn’t bring good news regarding the Toon. Last week’s thrashing by Fulham highlighted just how easy they are to unlock at the back, particularly centrally, and how missed Geordie boy Steven Taylor is. Looking further back, 6 from the last 8 open play goals (see chalkboards) show NUFC’s weakness at centre half and Blackburn will try to play similarly in a bid to hurt the Barcodes.

Where at Norwich, NUFC lacked aerial presence to deal with balls in, lately the direct and ‘slipped’ ball through our centre pairing at the back has caused many problems, especially against forwards with pace. Newcastle will need to play smarter and probably deeper to stop this problem rearing its head too regularly.

NUFC_Stats prediction: 2-2

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