Blackburn v Newcastle United, TOTT preview
Newcastle visit Blackburn, who represent something of a bogey team in recent years. The last visit to the North West saw fortunes change against Wigan. Can the Toon pull off another win?
Last week`s dramatic game was a once in a lifetime achievement. Newcastle make the journey to Blackburn hoping for a more emphatic, and less dramatic performance. This match is one between two mid table clubs, both on the same points but having achieved them in different style.
Both clubs have much in common over recent years, Shearer an iconic figure for each, both having been managed by Dalglish and Souness, Gordon Lee having made a similar journey. Both have sacked Allardyce after coming under new ownership.
There will therefore be a number of reunions, not least on the benches with Pardew taking on one of his former coaches during his first managerial appointment at Reading, where Kean was in charge of the youth team. Blackburn will be aware that this is the first team that they have scored most Premier League goals against.
Pardew will be aware of the tactical nous of his host, and will be greatful for the drama of last weekend covering his decision to deploy the team in a 4-5-1 during the first half, a system that did not work well, as it has not all season.The gap between defence and midfield was too big, allowing Arsenal to run riot before a reversion to 4-4-2. Assistant Carver will fondly remember Blackburn as providing his 100% win record as caretaker.
Despite the goals against column growing, the back five look to remain the same. Harper will continue in goal with Simpson returning to a club where he made 20 appearances on loan - also being part of a defence that conceded 4 against the Gunners. Enrique will keep his place on the left with Coloccini and Wiliamson looking like the central pairing, Campbell seemingly out of favour and Steve Taylor still not fit.
Midfield will prove to be a key area, with supporters yet to see if Pardew has learned the same lesons as his predecessor about playing 5 across the middle. Tiote is a certainty after his wonder goal on the wrong foot. Jonas is the only experienced left sided player with Nolan just about due a goal on his return to the North West. A goal would be his 50th in the Premier League, whislt failure to do so would equal his longest drought this season.
Completing the midfield will be Barton, who will be a focal point after his behavioural lapse at home. Guthrie will be on standby to make up the fifth, with Lovenkrands another possibility to drop back and wide.
The other preferred role for Lovenkrands is up front, being the only Newcastle striker available to have started more than 5 Premier League games for the club. Shola is of course out injured, with Best the man in form with 4 goals from his 5 starts. Ranger has yet to start in the Premier League but is beginning to look on the pace, whilst Kuqi should make the bench at his old stamping ground.
Steve Kean will be reeling from his own team`s 7 goal thriller last week, with his own team losing by the odd goal in 7. Having taken the reins just a few days after his former boss took over at Newcastle, his record is strikingly similar with 11 points from 10 games. Since taking over, his team have produced a remarkable pattern of failing to score in alternate league games.
Defence therefore becomes important for the home team, starting with England reject Robinson looking for his 6th home clean sheet of the season, the others coming against Everton, the 3 West Midlands sides to visit Ewood and the other North East Premier league team.
Kean`s own defensive options are limited, so we expect to see veteran Spaniard Salgado at right back, with promising young Swedish international Olsson on the other flank. Kiwi captain, and one of the stars for the minnows during the World Cup, Ryan Nelsen is at the heart of the defence alongside Alladyce loyalist, Samba.
Brett Emerton will want to make his mark against one of the clubs he turned down earlier in his career, with American Jones looking for the holding role. Morton Gamst Pedersen will be looking forward to his dinner date with Barton, at somewhere other than MacDonalds, with Canadian Hoilett offering a further attacking option.
Up front Roque Santa Cruz is poised to return, with both Jason Roberts and Benjani keen to add to the fire power.
Referee for the event is one of the season`s more controversial figures, novice Stuart Attwell who has spent as much time this season being held back from Premier League games as on the field. His previous Newcastle outing was against Wolves with the infamously unpunished scissor tackle that still sidelines the Magpies` flair midfielder despite issuing 12 cards.
Neither side has achieved a win under Attwel, Blackburn with a draw and a defeat, the Toon with 2 away draws, including Sheffield Wednesday last season. His Premier League debut was in fact on this ground. He is more than capable of influencing a game.
Blackburn have the better of this particular fixture, although honours are even over the last 6 meetings at Ewood. The respective Premier League positions and managerial records probably favour the draw, but who knows after lat weekend`s excitement?
Newcastle at Blackburn
P67 W15 D11 L41 F76 A130
P14 W2 D3 L9 F15 A23
Blackburn (from): Robinson, Salgado, Samba, Nelsen, Olsson, Hoilett, Andrews, J Jones, Dunn, MB Diouf, Santa Cruz, Pedersen, Bunn, Hanley, Emerton, Nzonzi, Grella, Benjani, Roberts, Kalinic.
Newcastle (from): Harper, Krul, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, Campbell, Tiote, Barton, Nolan, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Richardson, Lovenkrands, Best, Ranger, Kuqi.