Blackburn Rovers head to St. James' Park for a third-round FA Cup that perhaps has as much motivation for Newcastle as a third-round match could possibly have. Few will have forgotten Blackburn bouncing us from the Carling Cup at the dying breath of the match at Ewood Park after Newcastle had battled back from a 2-0 deficit in stoppage time of the second half. It's the kind of match that sticks with you for multiple reasons, foremost among them that it was snatched away at the very end after it looked like we might snatch it improbably and all that back and forth.
Oh, yeah. Almost forgot. There's also the fact that ROVERS FRICKIN "FORFEITED" THE NEXT ROUND TO CONCENTRATE ON THE LEAGUE! To Cardiff. In order to meet another Championship side in the semi-finals. I suppose that's all well and good when you're
trying to win the league. worrying about relegation in NOVEMBER.
Looking at the match without the whole forfeit thing in view, it is pretty clear that we will have to be wary of this match. We did manage to defeat Blackburn in our flying start to the season (thanks to a Demba Ba hat-trick... please come back, Demba!) but of course lost in the rematch in the Carling Cup. Since that time, our form has cooled off tremendously, and theirs has heated up of sorts. Well. Maybe not that, but they did beat Manchester United on New Year's Eve.. then lost to Stoke in their following match.
Newcastle, on the other hand are working on somewhat the opposite foot, having come off a run of poor results prior to the Manchester United match to put in perhaps the ultimate display of what this side is capable of in the 3-0 victory at St. James' Park. If we manage to perform in a similar manner on Saturday v. Rovers, one would have to think that they wouldn't stand a chance. Alas, it seems improbable that we'll be able to replicate the performance v. ManU with key men Cheik Tiote and Demba Ba on the way to the UAE or where ever else you would go to in order to prepare for the ACON.
- Newcastle have somewhat turned the ship form-wise, taking 7 from their last 5 while Blackburn have only taken 4 from their last 5. Those 4, however are from a victory of Manchester United and a draw with Liverpool days before they dismantled us at Anfield.
- Yakubu scored on a penalty in our 4-3 loss in the Carling cup. Previous to that, he had 2 goals on the season. In the 12 matches since, he has scored 10. He's no Demba Ba, mind... I am reading that Yakubu could be recalled to the Nigeria national setup, which is of course no use to us as the Super Eagles failed to qualify for Africa's show piece.
- Even with our victory over Blackburn at St. James' Park, Blackburn have had the better of the head-to-head (losing only the 3-1 result this season out of the last 9) over the last several years. Streaks and trends are there to be broken, though- if we win tomorrow, you could spin the numbers to say "Newcastle have won 2 out of their last 3 against Blackburn". So... take that for what it's worth.
- This is what I said in the preview to the Carling Cup match which still holds true, and fortunately for us, this is exactly what we showed we were capable of against Manchester United. We were able to completely nullify their left and right side attacks... and if Hoilett and Olsson pass fit, we'll need more of the same.:
When these two teams played a month ago, Newcastle always felt like the better team and took a relatively easy 3 points at home-- if we can knock the ball around and move effectively through the middle while controlling Olsson and Hoilett on the wings, you have to feel good about our chances of progressing, but as they say, they don't play the games on paper.
- What we don't know: Is Steve Kean going to take this seriously? I think that he owes us one and should just forfeit it to us.
Newcastle have 8 days before their next match and Blackburn have 7, so we should probably see relatively full-strength squads, so we may see this:
Newcastle United FC
Currently: 7th place, 9-6-5, 33 pts
Out: Danny Guthrie (groin), Sylvain Marveaux (groin), Peter Lovenkrands (calf), Steven Taylor (Achilles'), Ranger, (ankle), Cheik Tiote (ACON), Demba Ba (ACON)
Possible: Gabriel Obertan (toe)
Projected XI: Krul | Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon | Raylor, Abeid, Cabaye, Jonas | Ben Arfa, Best
Projected Subs: Elliot, Santon, Perch, Vuckic, Smith, Shola, Sammy
Blackburn Rovers FC
Currently: 20th place (How's that focusing on the league working out?) 3-5-12, 14 points
Out: Dann (groin), Salgado (rib), Grella (hip)
Doubtful: Olsson (hamstring), Hoilett (hamstring)
Possible: Robinson (calf), Nelsen (knee)
Projected XI: Bunn | Lowe, Samba, Hanley, Henley | Formica, Petrovic, N'Zonzi, Rochina, Pedersen | Yakubu
Projected subs: Robinson, Nelsen, Givet, Goodwillie, Vuckevic, Morris, Kean
Blackburn potentially have a TON of players coming back from injuries, and also a couple of key fitness tests before the match for Olsson and Hoilett... It'd sure make life a small tiny bit easier if both of those gentlemen failed such a test.
- Leon Best will mysteriously catch fire on the occasion of Demba's departure. After being doused, he will score his first goal since September.
- Hatem Ben Arfa will get his shot, and he will either dazzle and be everything we hope he can be and dominates the match OR, he will be anonymous and throw the entire conversation back onto that slippery slope. No in between shall occur.
- Olsson and Hoilett will both pass their fitness tests just to torture me.
I'm still not sure where the goals are going to come from now that Demba is drinking Strawberry Syrup Water elsewhere... but I think in this match they're there:
Newcastle 2 : 0 Blackburn
Public Service Announcement:
Keep your eyes peeled for the Better Know Your Enemy post-- it's should drop this evening, or may perhaps provide some excellent pre-match reading in the morning! Either way, you won't want to miss it!