The Clarets are now unbeaten in twelve games and next up is Birmingham at St Andrews this Wednesday night.
It was a remarkable day last Sunday and I am sure no Clarets fan needs reminding why! Not only did we beat Blackburn Rovers for the first time in 35 years after coming from behind at Ewood Park to record an historic 2-1 victory but we also consolidated our automatic promotion chances. Burnley remained in second spot but they now move to within five points of league leaders, Leicester City albeit having played a game more but more importantly are now eight points clear of their nearest rival below them, Derby County. At the time of writing this match preview, the Tuesday night games had not kicked-off so things could change slightly by the time we face Birmingham at St Andrews on Wednesday night. Derby play Bolton at home and fourth-place QPR face a tricky trip to Brighton whilst fifth-placed Nottingham Forest now 14 points behind the Clarets are also on the road away to Middlesbrough. The worst that can happen is Derby win and move to within five points of the Clarets. Still quite a bit of breathing space but if the Clarets can pick up any points against the Blues, it will be a job well-done and will certainly keep up the pressure on the chasing pack. Clarets fans are almost daring to dream but somehow even eight points ahead is not enough to totally quell the fears with 12 games and 36 points still to play-for. Automatic promotion is within our grasp which is a remarkable achievement and it is now ours to lose. It has been an incredible season especially when you consider Reading in sixth spot are already 14 points behind the Clarets. Can anybody see the Clarets now going on such a bad run; they wouldn`t even qualify for the play-offs? You really would have to be pessimistic to say ‘yes` to that one and yet remarkably qualifying for the play-offs would seem like failure now in light of our automatic promotion push.
First things first though, somehow Burnley now have to get over the euphoria of Sunday and come back down to earth with a bump and face up to a pretty routine game against Birmingham which is almost an anti-climax after Rovers yet one in which they need to remain focussed and not take their foot off the accelerator. Birmingham are having a pretty poor season by their standards. Lee Clark`s men are currently in 18th position, just seven points clear of the drop zone with the bottom three clubs all having played fewer games. Their recent form has also been pretty abysmal. Birmingham have lost four of their last five games managing to win just one and the Blues have kept only one clean sheet in their last 12 league games. The Clarets should be able to capitalise on their poor home form too since the hosts have not won any of their last 12 league games at St Andrews, losing five. Their last home win in the Championship was 4-0 against Millwall at the start of October. The Clarets in contrast are unbeaten in twelve Championship games with seven victories under their belt. On the road, they are unbeaten in six, having secured three wins. Burnley will also be looking for another double after beating the Blues 3-0 at Turf Moor earlier in the season.
Birmingham City Team News:
Midfielder Albert Rusnak, on loan from Manchester City, is fit again after a groin injury but left-back Mitch Hancox (ankle) and midfielder Brian Howard (ankle) remain sidelined. Defender Tyler Blackett (thigh) is also a doubt.
Player to watch: Nikola ?igić
Well Birmingham certainly have one aerial threat in Nikola ?igić. The 33 year old Serbian International centre forward stands 6 ft 7 1⁄2 in tall and the tactic is often to pump high balls up to him. ?igić signed a four-year contract with the then Premier League club Birmingham City for an undisclosed fee in May 2010 arriving from Valencia. He has since scored 29 times in 117 appearances. This season he is their third highest scorer on just four goals so perhaps he just looks more of a threat than he really is!
Burnley Team News:
Only Brian Stock is currently on the treatment table for a twisted back problem and Sean Dyche once again appears to have the luxury of being able to name the same eighteen.
Player to watch: Vings!
Not one but two and with Birmingham having kept only one clean sheet in their last 12 league games both Danny Ings and Sam Vokes will be hoping to add to Brum`s woes!
Team & Tactics:
With no news of any injuries following the historic win at Ewood Park on Sunday, Sean Dyche looks set to name the same starting eleven for now a remarkable ninth successive time at St Andrews. Indeed, it looks likely to once again be the same eighteen and if that is the case, we will line up as follows:
Heaton, Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Arfield, Jones, Marney, Kightly, Vokes, Ings
Subs: Cisak, Long, Edgar, Treacy, Stanislas, Wallace, Barnes.
If there were to be any changes to the starting eleven, I would propose just one! Ross Wallace galvanised the team when he came on against Rovers in the 68th minute last Sunday and Dyche could be tempted to start him ahead of Michael Kightly.
James Linington is the referee for this game. It is two years since this referee was in charge of a game involving the Clarets and that was the 1-0 defeat at Ipswich in March 2012. In that game Ipswich’s Grant Leadbitter saw red late on for a second bookable offence and another Ipswich player, Bowyer picked up a yellow card. The Newport referee this season has been in charge of 27 games so far and 6 players have been sent off with another 80 picking up a yellow.
Already eight points clear at the time of writing this article, Burnley could go into this game feeling a little more relaxed. Derby though may well have reduced that lead to five points if they manage to beat Bolton at home in the Tuesday night game this week so let`s keep the momentum going. Burnley should be too strong for Birmingham providing the Rovers game has not taken too much put of them and certainly in terms of form the advantage is with the Clarets. A point would be a good result to be honest but let`s be more positive! 2-1 Burnley
There is another juicy game coming up with a Wars of the Roses clash against Leeds United at Turf Moor on Saturday 15th March(Kick-Off: 3pm)