Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Since Tony Mowbray took charge in February 2017, Blackburn have lost only five of their 45 home league encounters.
That reliability at Ewood Park has given them a firm base from which to build their progress under Mowbray’s tenure.
While last week’s 5-2 defeat at Brentford may be concerning, therefore, we can be confident that a bad day at the office will not turn into anything more.
Questionable away displays have almost always been followed up by a defiant home display, like December’s 4-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday and New Years’ Day’s 2-1 triumph against ‘Mogga’s old club Blackburn.
Some have named the Lancashire outfit ‘Dackburn’ due to their perceive overreliance on attacking midfielder Bradley Dack.
Of course, it is true that Dack has been an influential performer for Rovers with 11 goals to his name – more than any attacking midfielder in the Championship – and five assists – the second-most.
It would be unfair however, to say that he is their only good player.
Since scoring 20 League One goals for Coventry in 2015-16, Adam Armstrong had faced question marks over his application at Barnsley and Bolton but appears to enjoy Tony Mowbray’s management, having proved himself at Championship level this term with eight goals including three in his last five appearances.
Danny Graham leads the line with admirable industry and graft, grabbing 11 goals for the season himself, while the rise of academy graduate Joe Nuttall should not be forgotten, either.
Blackburn press effectively and they attack quickly upon the turnover which means they can be a difficult team to stop.
Over the last five matches, their Expected Goals For (xGF) per game column reads 1.89 which is the fourth best in the Championship.
Aside from last week, they had not got too much wrong defensively either and it is worth remembering that three of the goals conceded at Brentford came after Corry Evans came off and there was little defensive insurance.
One would back Rovers, therefore, to return to their best on familiar soil.
🏆 Quest's Player of the Month
@daviidraya13 played his part keeping 3️⃣ clean sheets in the 4️⃣ games played.
Impressive work, David 👌 pic.twitter.com/lCA0fDuIf4
— Quest (@QuestTV) February 6, 2019
Before the festive period, Bristol City had sat 14th in the table but ranked in the top six for number of shots inside the penalty area for goals, which suggested there was more to come from them.
Since then, what we have seen is almost the opposite.
Saturday’s 2-0 win over Swansea lifted them into the final play-off spot ahead of Derby, yet there is reason to think they have been getting slightly lucky in certain encounters.
Over the last nine matches, their Expected Goals For (xGF) per game reads 1.09 and their xGA is 1.24, giving them a ratio of just 46.86%, which leaves them a lowly 18th in that metric.
While Bristol City deserve credit for their five-game winning run, part of an 11-match unbeaten streak, therefore, it is worth keeping in mind the context.
The sequence includes narrow victories over Rotherham and Bolton, who are among the three worst teams in the division.
At Stoke, they relied on their opponents missing a series of early chances including a penalty, before Lee Johnson’s side scored from their only two efforts on target in a 2-0 win.
Swansea went to Ashton Gate at a time of political strife while Nottingham Forest under Martin O’Neill are not the same proposition they were under Aitor Karanka.
That is not to discredit Bristol City, who have improved as a defensive unit this year, thanks to Adam Webster’s arrival and are having an excellent season.
Whether they are strong enough going forward to reach the top six however, remains to be seen and Blackburn could be the team to side with on Saturday.
Blackburn to win draw no bet 20/23