Date: 3rd April 2009 at 1:25pm
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The Clarets, after the two week International break, continue their push for a play-off place on Saturday with a trip to Pride Park to face Derby County in the first of their six remaining games of the season.

Setting the Scene

It seems like an age since our last game in the Championship away to Plymouth.

That 2-1 victory at Home Park two weeks ago set us up nicely for the International Break with a chance to rest and recuperate knowing that we had consolidated our position in the Top Six. The Clarets are now currently in 5th place on 65 points with just six games to play.

Crucially we have opened up a bit of a gap with the club in 7th place, local rivals Preston now four points behind us. This is particularly important bearing in mind the other clubs in the play spots currently have games in hand over the Clarets.

Interestingly we still have to play two of these teams, Sheffield United at home and Cardiff away so any points against those two would significantly increase our chances of a play-off spot. In we go on a good run in the last six games it is not inconceivable that we could still get automatic promotion with Birmingham in second place only 7 points ahead of the Clarets but that would be a tall order and a play-off finish looks the most realistic. Our fate is definitely in our own hands though as we start this crucial end game.

Another three points on the road against Derby tomorrow though and Clarets fans will really ‘Dare to Dream`

The Rams have had an indifferent season although like the Clarets have done well in the Carling Cup. They have been far too inconsistent though in the Championship and their season looks effectively over. They are not mathematically safe yet from relegation but in 17th spot six points clear of their local rivals, Nottingham Forest who occupy third from bottom in the relegation places, they don`t seem to be in any danger especially since they have games in hand over the bottom three sides.

The Clarets should be up for this more than Derby and it could be that fact that swings the game in our favour. Derby will hopefully just be playing for that pride in Pride Park, something we should be able to capitalise on. It won`t be easy though with news that the Clarets have a number of injury concerns just as it seems that Derby`s are evaporating.

It had been hoped that Steven Thompson would have fully recovered from his ankle ligament injury during the International break but it has been confirmed he is not yet fully fit and so therefore he will be sidelined for the game on Saturday.

Martin Paterson is another who appears to be struggling. He has a hamstring injury and had to pull out of International duty for Northern Ireland during the break.

Two players who did play for their countries have sadly picked up knocks and remain doubtful for the Rams game and both are defenders causing potential problems for Coyle in the back four. Rhys Williams already had a calf injury before he linked up with the Wales U-21 squad for their Under 21 Euro 2011 Championship qualifying campaign against Luxembourg. He did however play against Luxembourg and it looks to have further aggravated his calf injury.

The right back position could have been filled by Graham Alexander but then news filtered through that he too had been injured after playing for Scotland. He played for Scotland last Saturday in their 3-0 World Cup qualifying defeat against Holland in the Amsterdam Arena. He was however substituted with 17 minutes of normal time still to play and later in the week Scotland boss George Burley announced Alexander was ‘feeling his hamstring` and would therefore not feature in Wednesday night`s Scotland`s World Cup qualifying game against Iceland at Hampden Park.

If both Alexander and Williams fail to recover in time for the Clarets at least Michael Duff will be waiting in the wings to take over the right back role. The option to play a holding midfielder though could be scuppered with Alexander unavailable although Coyle might be tempted to start Gudjonsson in that role.

If we assume the worst and all four injured players are deemed unfit to play against Derby we could be down to the bare bones and might struggle to name a sixteen. Loyal servant, Ade Akinbiyi left the club this week after signing for USA MLS side, Houston Dynamo making our effective squad size 19 players with six of the other players in the squad currently out on loan and one, loan Russell Anderson suffering a season long cruciate ligament injury. If the four injured players don`t make it we will only have fifteen to choose from unless we recall one of the loans.

Our attack could also be weakened without the services of Paterson or Thompson but this would be an ideal opportunity for Jay Rodriguez to be given his first start for the club.

Maybe we should name Owen Coyle on the bench to make up the sixteen; he did after all show recently he can still score. The Clarets gaffer donned his football boots for the All-Ireland team in the Masters Football tournament recently and scored a brace against the England Masters side in their 3-1 win. In the next game against Scotland he scored again in a 4-1 victory before the All-Ireland team took their 3rd home nations title in this competition by defeating Wales 2-1 in the final. Imagine the cheers from the Clarets fans if he was named on the bench and then came on! Yeah OK April Fool was in midweek!!

Surely at least one of the three doubts will pull through in time, let`s hope so but if we assume the worst and all of them are sidelined; the team could be as follows:

Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Gudjonsson, Eagles, McCann, Elliott, Blake, Rodriguez

Subs: Penny, Jordan, McDonald, MacDonald, COYLE???

Derby County Team News:

Rams defenders Jay McEveley (pulled hamstring) and striker Chris Porter could feature after recovering from niggling injuries.

Winger Kris Commons will be given a late fitness test by Rams gaffer, Nigel Clough but if selected will probably be on the bench. He has been out of action for the last six weeks with a calf injury.

Steve Davies though is out for the rest of the season after fracturing a bone in his foot.

Player to watch: Rob Hulse

The 29 year old striker joined Derby County from Sheffield United in July 2008 for £1.75 million and is currently their leading goal-scorer with 13 goals in 36 appearances. Our potentially weakened defence will need to snuff out his threat.

Burnley Team News:

As mentioned above four players could miss this game through injury. Steven Thompson is definitely out with an ankle ligament injury and all Clarets fans will be hoping Martin Paterson (hamstring), Graham Alexander (hamstring) and Rhys Williams (calf) pull through in time ahead of this important clash with the Rams.

Player to watch: Jay Rodriguez

Jay must surely feature at some point in this game and in a way it would be good to see him make his first starting eleven appearance for the Clarets. He could be crucial to making sure we get enough goals in this game to ensure victory and get those valuable three points on the table.

Last Time We Met

We comfortably defeated Derby County 3-0 at Turf Moor at the end of November last year so we could have another double on the cards at Pride Park this Saturday. A brace from Martin Paterson and a goal by Kevin McDonald did the damage at Turf Moor and the result was the writing on the wall for their manager at the time, Paul Jewell. He resigned as Derby manager in December 2008.

You have to go back to January 2007 for the last time we played Derby at Pride Park, we lost that game 1-0 and of course that was the season that Derby were promoted to the Premier League after winning the play-off final. They did however come straight back down after a torrid season in the top flight. A season that saw the Rams finish bottom winning only one game all season with just 11 points in total.

Ref Watch:

Grant Hegley – Hertfordshire

Match Prediction:

We could and should win this one. I will go for a 2-1 victory to the Clarets.

Next Match

QPR are the visitors to Turf Moor on Saturday 11th April (3pm KO). They look to have blown their play-off hopes and are currently 11th with just 56 points, seven points behind sixth place Cardiff having played two games more.