The Clarets play their game-in-hand on Tuesday night when they face play-offs hopefuls Birmingham City at home in a re-arranged fixture.
Burnley will have been relieved to get their first win under their belt in eight games after demolishing Portsmouth 5-1 at Fratton Park last Saturday. The scale of the victory was unexpected, but hopefully we can now plough on in the remaining seven games of the season starting with victory over Birmingham at Turf Moor on Tuesday night. This game was originally scheduled to be played last month but was rearranged due to Birmingham`s FA Cup exploits against Chelsea.
It is the only fixture being played in midweek before the Easter schedule starts so all teams after Tuesday night will have played 40 games with just six matches of the season remaining. If the Clarets beat Birmingham they will move up four places to 12th spot on 56 points. At the moment it looks like three clubs, Southampton (78 points), Reading (76 points)and West Ham (72 points) are fighting over the two automatic promotion places with then four clubs on 63 points separated only on goal difference in contention for the last two play-off spots. Birmingham, Blackpool, Brighton and Boro are all on 63 points with Cardiff in 8th spot two points behind them.
It would certainly be nice if Burnley could move up the table and get within seven points of the play-offs contenders and it is rather interesting that along with Birmingham we still have to play both Brighton at home (Good Friday) and Blackpool at Bloomfield Road (Saturday 21st April) in three of the seven games remaining. It is of course mathematically possible that we could still reach the play-offs with 21 points still to play for but realistically it`s now all about pride and finishing as high as possible in the Championship.
Birmingham though will not be an easy team to beat and will be keen to maintain their promotion push. Perhaps the most interesting indicator of form though could be the relative two recent results of the two teams against relegation-threatened Portsmouth at Fratton Park. Birmingham got thumped 4-1 at Fratton Park last month whereas of course Burnley pulled off a 5-1 tonking only last Saturday! Doesn`t really work like that though does it? Brum`s form though over the last six matches however can only be described as indifferent with two wins, two draws and two defeats. Their confidence though could be raised after beating bottom club, Doncaster Rovers 3-1 at the Keepmoat last Friday. In terms of their away form though, putting aside the thumping they got at Fratton Park, Chris Hughton`s men have done quite well with four wins and two draws from their last eight Championship outings including a 6-0 thrashing of Millwall at the New Den.
The Clarets however will be hoping they can stop Birmingham in their tracks and dent their promotion hopes. It would be nice to avoid a double against us following Birmingham`s slim 2-1 victory over us at St Andrews back in November.
Burnley fans certainly need a lift on home soil with their team`s last victory at Turf Moor against Barnsley four home games ago.
Burnley Team News:
Martin Paterson will miss the clash on Tuesday night. The unfortunate striker picked up yet another injury on Saturday when he pulled up with a hamstring problem in the game against Pompey. The club seem optimistic that the injury is not too serious and that Pato could make a quick return. He does however face a scan ahead of the game to establish the degree of the injury.
We now appear to have two strikers down following news that Jay Rodriguez continues to struggle with his hip & groin injury. Although only described as a ‘wear and tear` fatigue injury, Clarets fans are left wondering whether they will see Jay Rodriguez play again this season having not featured since the game at home to Crystal Palace last month. Some fear they may have seen ‘one of our own` play his last game for the Clarets with predatory Premier League clubs likely to come chasing after him once the summer transfer window is open. Let`s hope not on both counts! The official line from Eddie Howe recently suggests the injury is not serious but that Jay Rod could still be sidelined for several weeks yet.
Striker, Danny Ings also need lengthy treatment on the pitch towards the end of the game at Fratton Park on Saturday and he was substituted by Stanislas in the 90th minute. There is no news yet on whether he will be fit enough to play.
Eddie Howe could also have a problem at left-back. Ben Mee also substituted in the Pompey game is suffering from back spasm and Daniel Lafferty has also been sidelined for the last two games with a hamstring injury.
Player to watch: Chris McCann
McCann has not scored now in 20 games. His last was in our 2-1 away win against West Ham back in December. He has generally looked under par this season with many fans wondering if the captaincy is too much of a burden for him. Others are suggesting that maybe he is a little too hesitant now going into the tackle following his long layoff with knee problems. There is only one way Chris is going to be able to counteract those arguments and that is by performing better on the pitch. A goal could do him a power of good so let`s have one against Brum!
Birmingham City Team News:
35-year-old right back Stephen Carr may not play for Birmingham again this season. He had undergone a minor operation on a knee injury picked up in the FA Cup 5th round tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last month but manager Chris Hughton fears that he may not recover in time for the last 7 games of the season.
Midfielder, Keith Fahey could also still be sidelined with a troublesome groin injury. He has missed the last two games having previously struggled through a few matches.
The game will come too soon also for 26 year old defender, Jonathan Spector. The 26 year old US international and former Manchester United and West Ham player injured his thigh in Brum`s recent 3-1 defeat away to Leicester City last month and has not featured in their last four games.
Spanish international centre back, Pablo Ibanez though could be back in contention after missing the last game away to Doncaster due to a slight hamstring tweak.
Player to watch: Steven Caldwell
Clarets fans of course know all about Steven Caldwell and some have perhaps been surprised he has featured so much for Birmingham this season.
Caldwell, now 31 was released by Burnley after his contract expired at the end of the 2009-10 season. He signed a one-year deal with Wigan in August 2010 before joining Birmingham in July 2001 after agreeing a two-year contract following their relegation from the Premier League.
Hopefully, we still have enough understanding of the centre back`s weaknesses to put him under pressure on Tuesday night.
Team & Tactics:
This is a difficult one to call in light of quite a few injuries to consider.
Providing Danny Ings is fully fit, with Pato and Rodriguez definitely out Eddie Howe would have little option but to start Danny along with Charlie Austin. If Ings doesn`t make it, Howe might consider Josh McQuoid in a striking role rather than his wider role of late.
Howe must be sweating over the left-back position too and could have a real problem if both Mee and Lafferty are unavailable due to injury. Brian Easton is also thought to be struggling with injury and in any case appears to be out of favour.
Lafferty was thought to be close to a return but has still not featured since picking up the injury away to Ipswich having missed the last two games.
The only other option would be to start Ross Wallace at left back which really would say something about the depth in our squad and question whether we have enough, especially in defence.
Eddie Howe is also taking the opportunity to blood some of our young guns on the bench. Both Steven Hewitt against West Ham and Cameron Howieson against Pompey have been bench-warming without making an appearance. We could perhaps expect the same again. Young 17 year old left-back, Luke Conlan might be a good bet in light of our situation in that position He along with Howieson signed their first professional contract for the club only last week.
I obviously have to make a few assumptions in my team prediction for this one but if both Ings and Lafferty are available and Mee does not make it, I would go with the following sixteen:
Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Duff, Lafferty (Mee if fit), Wallace, Marney, McCann, Bartley, Ings (McQuoid if Ings not fit) Austin
Subs: Jensen, Conlan, Stanislas , McQuoid, Howieson or Hewitt
South Yorkshire referee, Jock Waugh is in charge of this clash. His last game involving the Clarets was in this season`s 2-1 defeat at Peterborough back in September.Three yellow cards were shown that day and in his 28 games in charge so far this season he has sent off four players and flashed yellow 72 times.
Burnley fans are due a sequence of wins and hopefully the demolition of Pompey at Fratton Park last Saturday will have spurred the Clarets on and increased confidence after a run of no wins in seven.
Birmingham, in 4th spot will feel they can still reach the play-offs and will be no pushovers on Tuesday night but if the Clarets can win we will move up four places to within seven points of Birmingham. We simply have to finish on a high in the seven games remaining even though we are now playing more for pride than the mathematically still possible play-offs spot.
Buoyed on by the 5-1 thrashing of Portsmouth, I think we can beat Birmingham at home on Tuesday night although we do seem to be building up quite an injury list which could mean some radical, unproven changes to the sixteen.
I think we will shade this one and will go with a 2-1 Clarets victory!
The Easter games are upon us! We face Brighton at Turf Moor on Good Friday (Kick Off 3pm) before we play bottom club, Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat on Easter Monday (Kick-Off 3pm)