Date:Saturday December 9 2006
9th December 2006
Defeat away at Charlton seems to suggest that Mark Hughes and everyone connected with Rovers have a lot to worry about indeed.
The win over Fulham last weekend was meant to be the signal that the team had turned the corner but another under par performance at the Valley indicates a lot of work is still required.
Injuries haven`t helped and continue to hamper preparations just as they have for Saturday`s opponents, Newcastle United.
In last season`s corresponding fixture Newcastle arrived at Ewood Park to face a Blackburn team out of form and luck, struggling at the wrong end of the table. Sounds unfortunately familiar. The result that day was a resounding hammering led by Alan Shearer and Michael Owen.
Thankfully neither of those two will be playing, which is the main reason for Newcastle`s lack of cutting edge in attack.
Both sides are struggling for goals and have been susceptible to conceding needlessly. This could only mean one of two things. Either the defenders will come out on top and it will be a tight, if not boring, draw. Or, the goals will fly in and we will enjoy one of the games of the season.
It was roughly this time last season when Rover`s form really took off, perhaps today could be the day?
Mark Hughes: "We're a side that needs to start winning more games. That's obvious. The last performance wasn't good enough, but we know we are better than that and we've proved that in games this season. But we need more points on the board - and we're honest enough to admit that."
Michael Gray on Newcastle: "We are keen to get back to winning ways and, as the home side, we know what we`ve got to do. We`ve to put our last performance at Charlton on Tuesday night to bed now our only focus is to beat Newcastle. We had a fantastic festive period last season and we are certainly looking to do that again- starting tomorrow."
Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder: "It is one defeat in 11 matches overall. We need to carry on picking up points to get away from any concerns of us being in the bottom three. There's no resting on our laurels - we cannot afford to because of what happened at the start of the season.'
'I really believe this middle part of the season fashions a lot for the end of the season.'
Tugay is expected to take his place in the middle of the park again after starting mid-week`s embarrassment on the bench. He will replace Brett Emerton who will now be out for a few weeks due to his groin strain. David Bentley will revert to the right wing again.
Francis Jeffers who was hoping to make a comeback has fallen victim to another injury. He is joined by Zurab Khizanishvili who continues to be absent along with Ryan Nelsen, Steven Reid and Jason Roberts.
Sergio Peter and Paul Gallagher, who were both afforded more time in midweek will have to contend with a place on the bench again.
Rovers from: Friedel, Brown, Neill, Ooijer, Todd, Gray, Henchoz, McEveley, Bentley, Tugay, Mokoena, Savage, Peter, Pedersen, Nonda, McCarthy, Gallagher.
Today it is important to look at the team as a whole. The only individuals standing out at the moment are Tugay, Andre Ooijer and Brad Friedel. It is time for the team to shine together and gel as a well oiled machine. Everyone needs to stand up and be countered and do what they are paid for.
Just like Rovers, Newcastle have plenty of injury worries to contend with. Unsurprisingly Newcastle will be without the world`s most injured footballer Kieron Dyer. The mercurial talent that was Dyer continues to struggle with a new injury every few weeks, meaning he has almost covered the complete medical dictionary.
Antoine Sibierski, their leading scorer is likely to continue leading their attack with doubts over the fitness of Obafemi Martins and the ability of Albert Luque.
Former Rovers hero Damien Duff won`t be risked.
Newcastle from: Given, Srnicek, Solano, Taylor, Ramage, Huntington, Babayaro, Butt, Emre, N'Zogbia, Milner, Pattison, Troisi, Gate, Edgar, Martins, Sibierski, Luque, Rossi, Carroll.
The prestige`s talent of N`Zogbia ran Rovers ragged last time the two teams met at Ewood. If he features from the start on Saturday he will be one of the chief threats, particularly because of his pace.
Rovers have only beaten Newcastle once in their last six meetings at Ewood Park.
The last time the two teams met Rovers won one nil courtesy of Morten Gamst Pedersen`s only tap-in for Rovers and he even made that different because he used his arm.
Rovers currently sit at the bottom of the league form table after being in free-fall over the last eight games.
Newcastle enter this game on a run of seven games unbeaten, including three wins.
Newcastle have lost all five games that they have conceded the first goal in.
Newcastle`s squad has two former Rovers players
Dermot Gallagher takes charge of his sixth Premiership game on Saturday afternoon and it will be the first time he governs either Rovers or Newcastle. To date he has produced two red cards and 11 yellow.
Newcastle games have the worst value for money having only produced 29 goals. However, they enter this game unbeaten in seven and have drawn their last three away games. Rovers on the other hand have no form at all to talk of. This game will defy all typical conventions of both teams for this season to date. There will be goals but it won`t be enough for Rovers to secure three points. A 2-2 draw.
Nancy on Wednesday at 19:45 at Ewood
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Date:Saturday December 9 2006
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