Date: 28th March 2008 at 9:03am
Written by:

The Clarets enter the final stage of the season on Saturday playing the first of their six remaining matches against Barnsley at Turf Moor.

Burnley are currently in 11th place four points off sixth placed Plymouth with 55 points. The Top 5 clubs seem to be pulling away with only the one final 6th placed play-offs spot to fight over. Sadly for the Clarets we are the only side with a negative goal difference compared to all the ten clubs above us and four of these sides have a game in hand.

The reality is we need a miracle to still reach the play-offs and Coyle has already intimated that to do so we need to win at least five if not all six of the remaining games. Tall order and since miracles never happen for the Clarets, most fans are already resigned to another season in the fizzy pop league.

However we still have to go for it until it is mathematically impossible and even if we don`t finish in the Top 6, we really need to finish as high as possible to avoid yet another season of wasted chances and mid-table mediocrity.

I believe only a Top 10 finish will further justify the change of manager in mid-season and avoid potential criticism and unrest as the club attempts to woo us into buying new season tickets for the ‘New Dawn`.

It is clear that whatever happens, the Clarets will need to rebuild in the summer backed by an ambitious board. Some of the excuses that were attempted by Coyle in the January window and yesterday as the loan window closed without any inward activity, are not going to wash for much longer. If we can`t attract enough Premier League players to this club under the age of 30, even on loan when all our rivals seem quite capable of doing so then we seriously have to ask why. If we can`t get our targets because they will break our wage structure, then maybe it is time to review that wage structure. Does anybody seriously also believe there are not enough players out there that better the calibre of our current players?

Anyway that`s for the short-term future; let`s get back to the match in hand.

The Clarets as indicated above have no new faces on loan with the window closing yesterday and indeed their squad numbers have been reduced by one with the news that Steve Jones wil l play for Crewe on loan until the end of the season.

It does not look like Coyle has appealed against the red-card sending off of Clarke Carlisle in the final minute of our last match against Preston at Deepdale, so a change will be required in the back-four. Stan Varga however looks available for selection after a foot injury kept him sidelined for the local derby.

There is however concern for both Chris McCann and Kyle Lafferty. McCann missed an opportunity to possibly play for the Republic of Ireland Under-21 team in midweek despite playing in the local derby.

This suggests he might have had a recurrence of the injury that kept him sidelined for a few matches or possibly picked up a new knock.

Northern Ireland hero, Kyle Lafferty scored a brace in the friendly match against Georgia in midweek but was then substituted at the start of the second half due to a pre-existing thigh problem.

News is officially awaited from the Club on both these players.

Andrew Cole came on from the bench in the second half at Deepdale after recovering from a calf problem. The 36-year-old striker was also previously sidelined following the recurrence of an Achilles injury that has plagued the player over the years. Coyle is hoping to be able to have Cole available for the Roses match.

The team selection is therefore dependent on the news of some of the injuries but if we assume for the moment that McCann and Lafferty are unavailable then we can expect something like the following:

Kiraly, Alexander, Caldwell, Varga, Harley, Elliott, James O`Connor, Gudjonsson, Blake, Akinbiyi, Cole

Subs: Jensen, Unsworth, Mahon, Randall, Spicer

If the injuries to McCann and Lafferty clear up, I fully expect both will be in the starting eleven. Lafferty will no doubt take up the wide left role again despite bagging a brace in the centre for his national side in the 4-1 drubbing of little Georgia in midweek.

If Lafferty can`t make it, then perhaps we might see Blake playing a wider left role, something he seemed to do for a time in the derby game last Saturday against Preston.

Well this will be an interesting Roses clash. Will the Clarets still be going all out for a result or will the psychological strain of knowing the difficulty they face in reaching the play-offs be too much for them?

Will Barnsley, the giant killers of Liverpool and Chelsea in the FA Cup, have Wembley dreams on their mind or will their predicament of being in 18th place only two points clear of the relegation zone stir them into action? Their League form is not that impressive; they have lost their last two games and indeed have only won one match in eight games. In fact they have only won one match away all season against Southampton.

Game on! Up the Clarets

Owen Offers:

Talking about the Clarets players whose Turf Moor future will be decided at the end of the season:

‘They have to show they’re able to play to the level that we’ll be looking for,’ Coyle told BBC Radio Lancashire.

‘This is the time when players have to show they want to be a part of it.

‘It’s one thing to have all the ability in the world but it’s another thing to add mental strength to all the other attributes you have.

‘I want hungry players out there who, when they pull the jersey on, know they’re giving everything they’ve got.’

So let`s see them do it against Barnsley !

Burnley Team News:

Carlisle is starting a three-match ban and will miss this Roses game.

Injury concerns regarding McCann and Lafferty could keep them sidelined but Stan Varga could return to the back-four.

Player to watch: Wade Elliott

Wade Elliott could be on fire after signing a new three-year contract on Thursday.

Barnsley Team News:

Barnsley have concerns regarding the fitness of Brian Howard, Kayode Odejayi and Dennis Souza.

Their captain, Howard has a knee injury, Odejayi an ankle problem and Souza a facial cut.

Souza was involved in a clash of heads during the Sheffield United game last weekend and the Brazilian was taken from the field in a daze.

Player to watch: Jon Macken

If Howard doesn`t make it, we probably need to look out for Jon Macken

Last Time We Met

The Clarets managed to get a point away to Barnsley in a 1-1 draw back in October with Andy Gray getting the goal.

This fixture last season at Turf Moor saw the Clarets come out victors in a convincing 4-2 win with Gifton Noel-Williams getting a memorable hat-trick and Harley also getting on the score sheet.

Ref Watch:

C.H. Webster (Tyne and Wear)

Match Prediction:

I don`t think the Clarets will buckle in this game and will play for pride whilst we still have an outside chance of the play-offs. 3-0 Clarets

Next Match:

An away trip to East Anglia to face Norwich at Carrow Road on Saturday 5th April @ 3pm KO