FA Cup Preview: A Look At Blackburn

As I’m not familiar with how Blackburn have been performing this season, I thought I’d do a bit of research ahead of their trip to Anfield on Sunday 8th Match for an FA Cup quarter final. Here’s what I found. 

At the time of writing, Blackburn have the 12th best away record in the Championship. However, since November they’ve only won once (on Wednesday at, er, Sheffield Wednesday), drawing six and losing four, meaning that they have the fifth worst away record in the division over this period. Blackburn’s only other away win against a team currently in the top half of the table was when they beat Nottingham Forest in October, and at that point their hosts were six games into a nine game winless run. When playing good teams in form, away from Ewood Park, Blackburn have tended to come up short.

Rovers have scored one-or-fewer in fourteen of their eighteen away games in the Championship this season, and in defence it’s a similar story as they’ve conceded one-or-fewer eleven times. That said, prior to last Saturday they were on a run of twelve aways without a clean sheet, which was the third longest run by any team in the Championship this season, and no team has fewer clean sheets in total this season than Rovers. Blackburn tend to have low scoring games on the road, with only eight of the other twenty-three teams in their division seeing fewer total goals in their away matches.

Blackburn don’t seem to pay much attention to the notions of winning when scoring first or losing when conceding the opening goal of a game. Leeds United are the only team in the division to lose when scoring first more often (with Blackburn doing so four times in fifteen games), but equally Rovers have won three times when their opponents have scored first, and only three clubs have done so more often. That said, they last conceded first and won in November, whereas they scored first and lost three games ago, when Norwich City took all three points home from Ewood Park.

In terms of goal threat, whilst they are ranked twelfth in the division for goals from set pieces, with eleven, only five teams have scored more headers than them (eleven) and only four have scored more from direct free-kicks (two). In the Premier League, Liverpool have only conceded one direct free-kick and just three headers (and Juan Mata’s header at Old Trafford was clearly offside!) so Blackburn may not be able to utilise their apparent strengths in any case.

Only four teams in the Championship have had fewer different goalscorers than Blackburn this season, and it’s clear who their main scoring threats are; Rudy Gestede has thirteen league goals (including six with his head), whilst Jordan Rhodes has twelve, and they account for almost 60% of Rovers’ goals between them. Their only other player with more than three league goals this season is Ben Marshall, on seven, and he is responsible for their two direct free kick goals, so watch out for him if Blackburn get a free-kick within range of the Liverpool goal.

As for creativity, Tom Cairney is their top assist provider in the Championship with six, though perhaps surprisingly only one of them has gone to Gestede and none to Rhodes. Their main provider for their main strikers has been Craig Conway, with three assists for Gestede and two for Rhodes (and none for anybody else).

Based on the form of the two teams, it would be a big surprise if Blackburn were to win this match, though I’m sure Liverpool fans will recall when Rovers were in the Championship and pulled off a cup win at Anfield in 2000. My tip is for Mario Balotelli to score, purely so that he will have five Liverpool goals spread across five different competitions; what would be more Mario than that?

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