'They have top quality' - Farke expects Rovers to push for play-off place
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The Championship’s top scorers await Norwich City at Ewood Park this afternoon, with Daniel Farke challenging his players to keep building their defensive strength.
City sit three points clear at the top of the table having conceded just 16 goals in 17 games after a 2-1 home win over Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, when Blackburn were slipping to 10th thanks to a 1-0 defeat at Bristol City.
That was Rovers’ first defeat in eight games though and they also have the division's joint-top scorer Adam Armstrong, who is tied with Brentford striker Ivan Toney on 14 goals.
“They have top quality up front, they are always playing offence. In general I think Tony Mowbray is doing a fantastic job there,” said the Canaries chief.
“It’s more like they have developed from year to year since they have returned to the Championship (in 2018) and they are competitors for the top six positions.
“That is their claim, they want to be there and they definitely have the squad to achieve this. Especially in the offence they have some threats and they have scored many goals so far.
“It will be a difficult away task so we have to make sure that our defending is spot on and that in general we are compact and unbelievably solid to handle all their threats – but also to bring our game on to the pitch and make sure that we are in possession.
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“When they attack and attack it will be difficult so it’s important that we have many periods when we are able to control the game.”
City skipper Grant Hanley returns to his former club on the back of a nomination for the Championship Player of the Month for November. The Scot missed out on the award to Bournemouth forward David Brooks and Farke was also pipped to the managerial award by Watford boss Vladimir Ivic.
Defensive resilience has contributed hugely to losing just one of the last 13 games and while Farke is pleased to see Hanley’s form recognised, he stressed it has very much been a team effort.
“We’re not out so much for individual awards,” he continued. “It’s just important what we are doing as a team and in general we have had many clean sheets (five in 17 games) and I would prefer that we add more clean sheets.
“In the last games we have conceded so we are only absolutely happy when we return to the dressing room with a clean sheet but it’s always a basement situation to be solid in your defending.
“I remember when we won the title nearly two years ago that we scored nearly 100 goals but we also kept 13 or 14 clean sheets, so it’s important to be absolutely solid in terms of defending and this is what we have proved so far.
“Grant has played an important role and in the last game he was fantastic and he is fantastic in order for us to have this defensive stability.
“But there is always room for improvement and our defensive players are also responsible for the build-up for our offensive play – but our offensive players are also responsible for being absolutely solid and I think they are doing a fantastic job so far.
“In general we always defend as a team and attack as a team and all the players are important. We can be happy with our outcomes so far but there is still some space for improvement.”
Rovers welcome centre-back and captain Darragh Lenihan back after a one-game ban but will be without Norwich loanee Tom Trybull against his parent club and influential forward Ben Brereton, who has three goals and three assists to his name so far this season, has missed the last two games with a minor knee injury and isn’t yet ready to return.
Creative ace Bradley Dack has been out for almost a year after a serious knee ligament injury and alongside Brereton and defensive midfielder Lewis Traviss is hoping to be back in contention within the next fortnight, while former Canaries winger Elliott Bennett is hoping to return later this month after ankle surgery in October.
Similarly to City, they have managed to enjoy a positive start to the campaign in spite of those injuries and Farke knows how hard his team will have to continue working if they are to take points from a Blackburn squad hoping to be in the play-off mix.
“I don’t have the feeling that anyone is getting carried away, we are all experienced enough to judge it in a proper way, we know that there is unbelievable competition and that after one game the momentum can change unbelievably quickly – especially in this toughest league in the world,” he added.
“All of the games were unbelievably difficult, not one easy win, not one easy point, all of the games have been complicated. It’s absolutely incredible what these lads are doing, in our injury situation.
“It’s also a sign that all of the games are so close. When you are top of the league after 17 games you’d expect at least one easy win or one comfortable win where after 70 minutes you got the feeling that ‘okay, nothing will happen today’.
“But there has not been one game so far where we could be sure we would win the game until the last seconds.
“The most comfortable win was (3-1) away at Bristol City but even in this game they missed a penalty so it’s actually crazy to be top of the league and to win so many of the games by one goal and have the fear until the last seconds.
“It’s also a sign of what we’re doing and our quality because it’s not easy to play without so many key players. So to grind out results is what winners do and what winning mentality means. I’m happy that we have proved this so far.
“But it’s not enough to prove this over 17 games, you have to keep going and prove it over 46 games.”