Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers Cheat Sheet
Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers
Both sides will be coming into this match in a very positive frame of mind. Despite Stoke’s familiar travails and disappointments this season, the last display at Sunderland will be giving all connected to the Potters a lot of positivity. Blackburn, though, are on a strong 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions, the last two of which were an away win at a strong Leicester City side and at home to promotion-chasing Sheffield United. Strong form indeed.
The bookmakers suggest that Stoke are around even money for this clash. This seems somewhat short to me given Rovers’ recent form, and, unlike earlier in the season, the results are being backed up by performances from Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side. As another example, Rovers’ last Championship away game was against QPR and this was the first time that Rovers won the xG battle away from home in the league since 29th October at Hull City. This team shouldn’t be taken lightly at the moment.
However, it is fairly difficult to predict how Stoke will play on the night. The Sunderland performance was really good, if predicated on getting ahead and playing on the counter. There was obviously the added motivation in that fixture of Alex Neil going back to the Sunderland and the stick that he has received since that controversial move. Looking into recent form at home it is either boom or nothing for the Staffordshire club. Twice in their last four they have dominated the xG battle, and in the other two matches (against Hull and Millwall) hardly any chances for either side.
The latter type of match is what I would expect here. Rovers are a very organised side at the moment with a real understanding of what their manager expects them to do. They can play possession-heavy football, but they have a deep defensive line, so there will be little space for the likes of Tyrese Campbell, Dwight Gayle, and Jacob Brown to attack. However, this also means that Rovers don’t tend to create the best chances in open play either, unless on the counter attack.
All of the above suggests to me that we will be looking at a tight game with chances at a premium. Rovers will not want to lose their unbeaten record, although a win would keep them in the hunt for automatic promotion, and Stoke will not want to commit too many forward to protect themselves from the counter attack.
One thing that the season-long trends point out for this match in particular is the way that the different styles of play have contributed towards the winning of corners.
Stoke sit above average with the corners that they win in the league, and statistically they have a higher average at home at 6.24 per match. Blackburn’s mean number of corners won is 3.91, already much lower, but when you look at just away matches, that figure drops to only 2.89, 3.35 corners per match lower than Stoke.
Just to sweeten the case even more, Blackburn allow their opponents over 6 corners on average on the road as well. So there is a strong statistical case for Stoke to win the corner match here and we can add that to our bet.
Games between these two in the past have tended to be highly competitive affairs. There have been a number of cards given out in the recent meetings, but Matt Donohue isn’t necessarily the most card happy referee having only distributed 3 cards total in his last two games with an average of around 3.5 cards per game across the season.
In this case I am more happy to look into the fouls market to pick out a price that should be beaten. Which leads me nicely onto Lewis Travis at Blackburn.
The Blackburn captain has become integral to the side again after suffering a period of time out of the team due to a lack of form. Travis is well known in the league for his slightly abrasive style, but what only becomes apparent when you watch him regularly is simply how often he winds up the opposition and the things he does to influence the game in that way.
Often these things will lead to flashpoints in the game and this will contribute to the midfield being a spicy place to play in this match. It feels very likely that Travis himself will be amongst the fouls as well. He leads Blackburn’s charts in fouls made by a long way, in the last 10 matches he has averaged 2.8 fouls per game. He is also Blackburn’s most fouled player over that same period, possibly as a result of buying certain fouls from the officials.
There will, of course, be some ambition on both sides to go for the victory and the positive vibes that were mentioned at the top of the article mean that we will be seeing some confident attacking players on the pitch.
Tyrese Campbell looks to be approaching the type of form that made him one of the hottest prospects in the league before his serious injury which kept him out for a long time.
The Stoke forward can play anywhere across the forward line and will be seeking out the potential weaknesses in Blackburn’s defence. This is likely to be on Rovers’ right with Joe Rankin-Costello, albeit Rovers’ most in-form player, but he has a brief to attack from that position, and Hayden Carter, who is Rovers’ least experienced defender.
Campbell has averaged over one shot on target per 90 this season, and his recent form has seen his shot volume increase dramatically. Against Sunderland he scored twice amongst six shots taken, but previous to that his shot numbers were 3, 2, 3, so a good chance of getting a shot on target off.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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