Club Focus – Blackburn Rovers – Allardyce’s Rovers return to Newcastle in search of vital away points

Blackburn Rovers got their season back on track thanks to a win over local rivals Wigan last time out – a result which lifted Sam Allardyce’s side out of the relegation zone. The Blues now travel to the North East, ready to face Big Sam’s former employers Newcastle United.

In recent years, Rovers have found St James’ Park to be an enjoyable ground to visit – they have won their last four games at the home of the Magpies. However, with Newcastle in magnificent form ahead of this fixture, Chris Hughton’s men could end that run of home defeats against their Lancashire opponents.

Allardyce may not have been too pleased with his side’s performance against Wigan Athletic, but the manager will no doubt have been relieved with the three points Rovers gained. Blackburn are currently in 16th position in the Premier League, but the table is so tight that Rovers are just five points adrift of tonight’s opponents who lie in fifth.

Newcastle are enjoying a terrific start to the season. The newly-promoted side have taken 17 points from their first 11 games, leaving them in a European spot rather than a relegation place. The Magpies have some key, in-form players, particularly Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan, but their mightiest weapon of all is young striker Andy Carroll, who has been scoring goals for fun this season. Carroll does have his off-field problems, which have been plastered all over the papers recently, yet nonetheless the forward’s performances on the field have not been affected – so much to the extent that he is being linked with an England call-up.

If Rovers are to take anything from this match, they must stop the prolific 21-year-old. That task is a handful for any centre-back pairing, but Allardyce will be quietly confident that both Ryan Nelsen and Chris Samba can deal with Carroll. Should the striker manage to bamboozle Rovers’ defence and get any chances he may find it difficult to get past goalkeeper Paul Robinson, who has been in sparkling form for Blackburn this campaign.

As for Rovers, they themselves will have to show some attacking intent against the Magpies. Allardyce is often criticised for the way in which he sets out his team and many believe he is too negative in his approach. However, he will realise that Newcastle are definitely beatable and that a similar performance from his side to the one against Chelsea a couple of weeks ago would probably be enough to secure victory over Hughton’s outfit.

All in all, Blackburn definitely need the points more than their opponents and with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa up next for Allardyce’s men, it is important for them to get points on the board as soon as possible if they are to secure another top half finish. It will be a tough task to beat a high-flying Newcastle side on their own turf, but Allardyce will still be looking for victory against the club he once managed.

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