For the third game in a row, Charlton’s opponent is without a win in this season’s Championship. As such, expecting victory is not unreasonable.
And yet, there is a certain amount of apprehension ahead of the trip to Ewood Park on Saturday. Not only because Blackburn have won the previous four encounters between the two sides, but also owing to the disappointing nature of the results and performances in the previous week.
Against Rotherham, a failure to make possession and pressure count cost the Addicks two points, and a disappointing effort in defence and going forward meant Tuesday’s defeat to Huddersfield was deserved.
With Blackburn having taken a point from their trip to Loftus Road on Wednesday that could have so easily been three, the worry ahead of the clash among Charlton supporters has only increased. The league position of Gary Bowyer’s side not reflective of the individual quality within it.
But the Addicks have not suddenly become a poor side overnight. The excellent performances in the first month of the season were not flukes.
A way, however, needs to be found to get back to that potent attacking play on the break, and to rediscover a bit of confidence.
A big test of character for Guy Luzon and his side.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1-3 BLACKBURN ROVERS
A RoJo masterclass gifted Blackburn all three points at The Valley in March.
The visitors took the lead with just 15 minutes played, as regular Charlton tormentor brushed off Roger Johnson and finished in typical fashion beyond Stephen Henderson.
And Rovers went two in front just three minutes later, as Johnson comically gifted the ball to Craig Conway, who fired into the bottom corner.
Yoni Buyens, converting a penalty awarded after goalkeeper Jason Steele clattered into Igor Vetokele, briefly gave the Addicks hope of avoiding a second defeat in seven games, but the Standard Liege loanee played an unfortunate part in the goal that sealed Blackburn’s victory.
Attempted to block a ball played through to Rhodes, Buyens could only help it into his path, and the prolific forward was able to comfortably head past Henderson.
In truth, Blackburn’s start to the season has been something of a frustrating one. Their three league defeats suffered by just one goal, and their four Championship draws the sort of contests that could well have gone either way.
But that takes little away from the disappointment of Gary Bowyer’s side failing to experience victory so far this season.
In part, it is a consequence of a testing summer. A transfer embargo restricting business, and their squad only substantially added to in the final weeks of the transfer window.
They have, however, kept a hold of their better performers, with Rhodes and Ben Marshall staying at Ewood Park despite interest from other Championship clubs. Rhodes scoring in the 2-2 draw with QPR in midweek, which boss Bowyer felt was a game his side did enough to win.
As such, irrespective of their winless start to the campaign, there is enough quality in Blackburn’s side to test most of the sides in this division.
Originally viewed as nothing more than a small blip, the defeat to Wolves before the international break in fact set up what was to come.
For the failure to provide a persistent threat in attack, with decision making poor and creativity lacking, that made the Addicks look sluggish at Molineux has also been seen in the draw with Rotherham and the defeat to Huddersfield.
Against two sides who offered a stubborn resolve, Luzon’s side had no answer. Individually, particularly in the case of Tony Watt, indecisiveness and poor execution gave the opposition back lines an easier task. Collectively, there was no Plan B.
A superb start to the season has become an average one, and a return to the early season form is required sooner rather than later.
Blackburn could be without Tommy Spurr after the full-back was stretchered off unconscious in the first minute of their draw with QPR.
Spurr, who required oxygen having been floored following a corner, latterly came round in the dressing room and travelled back up north with the squad, but Saturday’s game might come too soon for him to make a full recovery.
Jason Lowe is also a doubt, having missed the game at Loftus Road, while Chris Brown and Chris Taylor are both out.
Charlton have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to Ewood Park, but there could be changes to the XI that started against Huddersfield.
The most likely would see Alou Diarra, rested on Tuesday night, come back in for Naby Sarr, who struggled to content with Ishmael Miller.
There could also be changes in midfield, with the lack of width that comes from playing Jordan Cousins on the left frustrating supporters. Loanee Conor McAleny may come in for his full debut, with El-Hadji Ba dropped to allow Cousins to take up a more natural position.
Elsewhere, Stephen Henderson, Franck Moussa, Cristian Ceballos and Reza Ghoochannejhad remain unavailable through injury.
KEY BATTLE – RHODES V CHARLTON’S CENTRE-BACKS
In last season’s league encounters between Blackburn and Charlton, an early goal or two from Rhodes put the game very quickly beyond the Addicks.
And while Charlton were not the only that Rhodes tormented, the manner of the goals he was able to score made both fixtures against Rovers particularly frustrating.
For Tal Ben Haim and Andre Bikey allowed him to dance into positions at Ewood Park from which a goal scorer of his nature would not waste, and Johnson offered little resistance at The Valley.
But Rhodes, having found the flaws in Charlton’s centre-backs last season, will come up against a stronger paring on Saturday. The return of Diarra, following Sarr’s disappointing efforts in midweek, alongside Patrick Bauer, arguably the most consistent performer so far, gives Luzon’s side a fair chance of stopping their regular nemesis.
With that solid base, the Addicks stand a much greater chance of once again finding the potent attacking play on the break that was seen during the first month of the season. At the very least, they’ll be able to attack without having to search for the goals that cancel out Rhodes’ strikes.
A decent opportunity to get back to winning ways, but I expect a slow return to the performances that were seen in the first month of the campaign. Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Charlton Athletic