Leeds and Blackburn 5-goal stars will be key in Championship encounter

Jordan Rhodes of Blackburn Rovers

Jordan Rhodes and Mirco Antenucci will likely be key men in the Championship this weekend, as Blackburn host Leeds United.

RhodesvsAntenucci

Leeds head into the game looking to close the gap on the play-off places to five points, whilst Rovers could move as high as fourth by picking up three points.

Whilst the Whites have been disappointing this term - after the high expectations placed on them with the arrival of Massimo Cellino - they have started to pick up since the full-time appointment of Neil Redfearn, and the performance put in in the 3-1 victory over Blackpool prior to the international break was undoubtedly the best football seen this season. On the other hand, Blackburn are performing as many would expect, with Gary Bowyer leading the club on a real fight for promotion. Their squad may not be strong enough to compete with automatic promotion hopefuls Derby, Middlesbrough and Watford, but the Lancashire side will have real hopes that they can achieve a play-off finish come May next year.

Saturday’s game is remarkably important for both sides, with it potentially laying the groundwork for the hectic Christmas run of fixtures. If Leeds win, they can have serious aspirations of putting together a positive run of results and moving towards the top end of the table, whereas Blackburn will be hoping not to lose, with the top six clubs looking to separate themselves from the chasing pack.

With both clubs having a similar defensive record - and both conceding 24 goals in 17 games this term - the result will most likely be determined by the presence of two key attacking presences in their respective sides - Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes, and Leeds United’s Mirco Antenucci.

  Mins PlayedMins per GoalMins per ShotMins per Key PassMins per DribbleConversion RateMins per TouchAppearances
Jordan Rhodes 1346 269.2 29.9 84.1 673 11.1% 2.8 17
Mirco Antenucci 1233 246.6 29.4 102.8 123.3 11.9% 2.4 14

Surprisingly, Rhodes - considered one of the best strikers outside of the Premier League - has been playing a more conservative role this season, with strike partner Rudy Gestede leading the scoring charts with 10 goals. The Scottish international has just five strikes to his name, which, in 17 games, is remarkably low for the forward. However, he appears to be playing deeper that his strike partner, acting as a link between the midfield and the attack, as shown by his 16 key passes - of which one is played at least every game.

With Gestede nothing more than a target man, his on-the-ball ability is fairly rudimentary - although his finishing this term should not be derided - and Rhodes has had to reduce his personal glory in exchange for team success. Despite this, he still registers a shot every 30 minutes, and it is a surprise to see him with just a tally of five for the season.

Conversely, Antenucci has been playing as the main striker for Leeds this season, with Souleymane Doukara providing the link-up play from a deeper position. He too has five goals, although his conversion rate is slightly higher, having taken fewer shots to reach the same milestone. He appears as a much better solo forward than Rhodes, by completing a successful dribble at a rate of over 500 minutes faster than the Rovers man, and he is also more greedy, choosing to go for goal rather than play in his teammates.

The Italian is considered one of the real success stories of the Cellino era at Elland Road, and, although his goal tally is far off the top scorers in the Championship, he has been a key part of the Leeds side who will be looking to kick-start their season at the weekend. Rhodes will be leading the team who are attempting to stop them, and Blackburn have done well to tie the 24-year-old to another contract extension despite Premier League interest over the summer. Whilst Rudy Gestede will take all the plaudits for his remarkable form in front of goal, the Scotsman’s influence is heavily felt, and he could well be the difference maker in seeing Rovers move into the play-off places come the end of the weekend.

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