The Clarets travel to St Andrews to play Birmingham City on Tuesday night hoping to bring to an end a dismal run of three successive defeats.
These are desperate times for the club. Burnley have suffered from inconsistency all season and after a run of three successive defeats are now facing a relegation battle with the club precariously placed fourth from bottom. They are also worryingly just two points clear of third-from-bottom club, Bristol City albeit with a game in hand. That game in hand however will be played on Tuesday night away to Birmingham City in a rearranged fixture postponed from last August. At least, we won`t be in the bottom three places come Saturday morning no matter what the result at St Andrews. The Robins do not have a midweek game but it would be nice to widen the gap between the two clubs before the Saturday fixtures in order to relieve the pressure. It is crucial therefore we get something from the Brum game and that certainly won`t be easy against a side that have yet to lose at home this season.
Chris Hughton`s men have won four and drawn three of their seven home league games so far this season. They are currently in 13th spot with 22 points, four more than the Clarets. Crucially though, their Europa Cup campaign has meant a number of their midweek Championship games including the Burnley fixture have had to be postponed and at the moment they have played just 14 league games, 2-3 fewer than most clubs in the league. They will be keen to take advantage now and advance towards the play-offs spots. Had they played and won all their games in hand so far, they would now be in third spot on the same number of points as Middlesbrough. Brum have lost just one of their last six league games although will have been disappointed to only pick up a point in a 1-1 draw at home to Peterborough on Saturday.
The Clarets will really have to pull something special out of the bag to come away with something from St Andrews and the relative form book suggests it will be a uphill struggle. We would however not really want to go into Saturday`s game at the KC Stadium facing 6th placed Hull City on the back of yet another defeat, a fourth in succession. Come on you Clarets, surprise a few and give Brum a shock.
Birmingham City Team News:
Birmingham are without midfielders Morgaro Gomis (groin) and Jordon Mutch (ankle). Gomis is back in training but it is too soon for him to be in contention for the Clarets clash.
Defender, Liam Ridgewell missed the Blues’ 1-1 draw with Peterborough at the weekend after picking up a thigh injury and looks set to miss out again. Stephen Carr and David Murphy are the most likely full backs to line up against us.
Clarets fans hoping to see Wembley hero, Wade Elliott in action against his former club may have to be content with him coming on from the bench. He was only a substitute in their last game against Posh although he did come on to play in the 84th minute.
Player to watch: Steven Caldwell
With Clarets fans bemoaning our woeful defence at the moment, it will be interesting to see how our former captain and central defender, Steven Caldwell performs against us on Tuesday night.
Caldwell was released by Brian Laws at the end of his contract following our ill-fated Premier League campaign and relegation at the end of the 2009-10 season. In August 2010, he signed a one-year deal with Premier League, Wigan Athletic joining up with his brother, Gary but was released when his contract expired at the end of the 2010-11 season.
The Scotland international joined newly relegated, Birmingham City in July 2011 penning a two-year deal and the defender, now 31 has been virtually an ever-present for the Blues this season also playing for them in the Europa Cup. One of his new teammates this season of course is another former Clarets player, Wade Elliott so let`s hope we can prevent both of them getting any satisfaction against us on Tuesday night.
Burnley Team News:
The Clarets certainly have a few injury concerns at the moment. Leading goal-scorer, Charlie Austin saw a specialist today (Monday) after falling heavily in the game at home to Leeds on Saturday and dislocating his shoulder again. This is clearly a weak spot for the former Swindon striker after now suffering three shoulder dislocations in 14 months. X-rays carried out straight after the first-half incident at least confirmed there was no fracture. We await news on how long he is expected to be sidelined this time round but it is thought he will be not be out for as long as first feared after seeing the specialist today. He faces another scan this Friday with the club hopeful of more good news.
New loan striker, Sam Vokes however still looks set for an extended run in the side probably partnering Jay Rodriguez up front. Vokes made his debut last Saturday coming on from the bench after 30 minutes to replace the injured Austin.
Clarets fans also await news on Ross Wallace. He faces a late fitness test ahead of the trip to Birmingham. The Scotland winger missed the game against Leeds after suffering a hamstring injury.
Danny Ings (cartilage), Martin Paterson (thigh) and Brian Jensen (groin) are also all still sidelined
Player to watch: Sam Vokes
Vokes will be keen to open his account for the Clarets after making a solid debut against Leeds at the weekend. It was quite an impressive performance considering he had only been at the club for one day following his loan transfer from Wolves last Friday.
Team & Tactics:
We have to assume for the moment that Wallace is not fit enough to play. Even if he has recovered from his hamstring injury in time, he could find it difficult to automatically return to the starting eleven with Keith Treacy having put in a reasonable shift against Leeds last Saturday. If Wallace is fit enough to play, Howe might be tempted to play him in the hole and play Treacy and Stanislas out on the flanks. I am not sure though that a 4-4-1-1 formation suits the Clarets based on recent performances and the more familiar 4-4-2 looks the better bet
Sam Vokes looks set to make his full debut for the Clarets with Charlie Austin now sidelined with a shoulder injury.
The line-up on Saturday then could look something like this probably in 4-4-2 formation:
Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Duff, Easton, Treacy, McCann, Bartley, Stanislas, Rodriguez, Vokes
Subs: Stewart, Amougou, Mee (or Wallace if fit), Marney, Hines
West Yorkshire referee, Robert Madley is in charge of this clash at St Andrews. In his 13 games so far this season, he has not been too prolific dishing out the cards; just the one red and 28 yellow so far (i.e. just over 2 cards/game)
It is very difficult to see anything other than defeat on Tuesday night. Birmingham have been strong at home all season and will be keen to step up a gear now and start to win their games in hand in order to push for a play-offs spot. The Clarets will need to pull something extra out of the bag but with no clear indication of any improvement in consistency, luck deserting them and confidence low after three straight defeats things look ominous. The fear of dropping closer to the drop zone could have an adverse effect on our chances and my fear is we could suffer a tonking. I so hope we don`t come away bruised and battered. 4-0 Birmingham though is my prediction but I am hoping I look a complete chump come the final whistle after the Clarets shade it 2-1!
Our second consecutive away game sees the Clarets travel to the KC Stadium on Saturday 26th November (Kick-Off: 3pm) to face a resurgent Hull City. The Tigers are currently in 6th place having also played the same number of games as Burnley. We are certainly being tested to the limit at the moment.