Our opponents this Saturday at Turf Moor, Portsmouth have today become the first Premier League club to enter into administration. The club will be docked nine points as a result and face almost certain relegation to the Championship. They were in bottom place, seven points behind the Clarets still within a fighting chance of staying up but now their task is virtually impossible although still mathematically feasible if they win all their remaining games. With Burnley second from bottom this was a vital six pointer but after today`s news it has now become a vital three-pointer for the Clarets although Pompey may have other ideas.
It is difficult to know how the news confirmed today will affect the Pompey players. They could be demoralised but they could also be just as determined to come out, prove a point and play for pride cheered on by an expected large following of battered and bruised Pompey fans. The Clarets will have to be on their guard and this might not be a simple three points in the bag that some are predicting. We have to treat this game with respect and at the same time put all thoughts of Pompey`s circumstances and likely psychological effect on their players out of our heads. There is no room for sympathy though just as there is no room for over-confidence; we have to do a job on Saturday and do it well if we are to start to really believe we can avoid the drop. A defeat or even a draw would be unthinkable, our heads would drop, our confidence would plummet and the chances of survival would be made a hundred times more difficult. It is so, so important to win tomorrow!
Come on you Clarets!
Predicted Team Sheet
David Nugent on loan from Pompey is ineligible to play this Saturday
If Laws decides to play with two up front then Martin Paterson could be about to make his first start since last September following his recovery from injury (see Player to Watch). Alternatively Robbie Blake might make a return and play just behind Fletcher.
Graham Alexander could also be in contention for a return if he is considered fit enough following a calf injury that has kept him sidelined since the Bolton game last month at the Reebok.
McCann and Caldwell are still sidelined with injuries so I will go with the eighteen below although I am torn between Alexander and Bikey in midfield. Laws will surely play just one or the other and couldn`t possibly drop Jack Cork who was man of the match by some distance in our last game against Villa. The only other alternative might be to drop McDonald and play Alexander, Bikey and Cork in midfield. Supermac it has to be said has been less than impressive in recent games with both he and Bikey having problems chasing back to defend after going on the rampage.
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Fox, Alexander or Bikey, Cork, McDonald, Eagles, Paterson, Fletcher.
Subs: Weaver, Edgar, Duff, Blake, Bikey or Alexander, Elliott, Thompson.
Burnley Team News:
Our on loan striker from Portsmouth, David Nugent is of course not eligible for this game and he must now be wondering what fate lies ahead for him in the summer with Portsmouth now almost certainly relegated. Martin Paterson could be given his first start since last September (see Player to Watch)
This is a game too soon for Chris McCann (knee) and Steven Caldwell (persistent groin injury) but both could be close to a return.
Graham Alexander though looks to be available for selection after recovering from a calf-injury that had kept him sidelined since the Bolton game at the Reebok last month.
If Alexander does return, he will no doubt also take over the deputy captain`s armband from Clarke Carlisle.
Player to watch: Martin Paterson
Paterson has of course just recently returned following a long lay-off from injury but his confidence will have been boosted after coming on from the bench and getting his first Premier League goal against Aston Villa last Sunday. Yes, the goal may have been a late consolation for the Clarets after being scored deep into added time to make the final score 5-2 to Villa but it could be a crucial goal if our fate is decided on goal difference come May. It will certainly have been a tonic for Pato though who now has a chance to shine again if he is selected with David Nugent not being eligible for this game. This could be his first start since tearing his cartilage against Barnsley at Oakwell in the Carling Cup defeat back in September.
Portsmouth Team News:
Frederic Piquionne is not expected to feature after picking up a hamstring problem in Pompey`s home defeat to Stoke last Saturday. This could mean either John Utaka or Kanu could make a start upfront alongside Aruna Dindane.
Portsmouth midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng will be out for weeks yet with a torn ankle ligament and has been pretty dismissive of the standard of medical care at Portsmouth.
‘At my club Portsmouth my foot pains were diagnosed as a strain of the syndesmotic ligament,’ Boateng said in the Sport Bild magazine.
‘Now doctors in Cologne have confirmed that the ligament is torn and I will be out for weeks.’ he continued.
‘I am mad. At Portsmouth we don’t have the level of medical care like there is at Hertha Berlin and Borussia Dortmund.’ (Boateng’s former German clubs)
Defenders Marc Wilson, Anthony Vanden Borre and Tal Ben-Haim are also injury doubts.
Ricardo Rocha could therefore be selected to play at the back with the club`s only other recognised defender, Hermann Hreidarsson. It looks like keeper David James could be in for a busy time in front of goal with Pompey having no option but to put out a makeshift defence.
Midfielder, Aaron Mokoena is also unlikely to play despite the former Blackburn Rovers player now having returned to training following a knee injury. Michael Brown however could be selected in midfield after recovering from a back injury.
Player to watch: Aruna Dindane
29 year old striker, Aruna Dindane is an Ivory Coast international currently on loan from French Ligue 1 club, Lens. In August 2009 he signed a one-year loan deal, with the option of a permanent deal at the end of his loan spell. That looks somewhat remote now with Pompey almost certainly playing Championship football next season.
Dindane though is currently Pompey`s top scorer in the league this season albeit with just five goals; one of which he scored against us at Fratton Park in the 84th minute last December to make the final score 2-0 to Portsmouth . He will need to be watched carefully along with the combination of Nadir Belhadj and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie down the left wing. Spurs loan Jamie O`Hara has also been in impressive form in recent weeks.
Back to the Future
The last game we played against Portsmouth was of course earlier in the season at Fratton Park at the beginning of December. It was a frustrating match where we couldn`t make any of the pressure count against a nervous Portsmouth fighting for their lives. In the end we lost 2-0. That game was actually the first time we had met in the top flight since the 1958-59 season over 50 years ago!
In 1975-76, the last time we were in the top flight before this season, Portsmouth were a struggling second division side and indeed they finished bottom and were relegated to the third tier. Our slide had begun too though and in just another four years we would be playing them again in the Third Division and losing both home and away!
Ominously for the Clarets, Portsmouth are unbeaten against us in the last 10 meetings in all competitions so it is time to bring that record to an end. The last time we beat Pompey was 28 years ago to the day. Our gaffer, Brian Laws might just recall that 3-0 victory, he was playing for the Clarets that day!
County Durham referee, Mark Clattenburg is in charge of this one. He was appointed to Select Group Referees list in 2004 and to FIFA International Referees list in 2006. Clattenburg has been in charge of two of our games this season and we have lost both against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and away to Barnsley at Oakwell in the Carling Cup! We shall have to hope that is not a bad omen and it`s just indicative of the referee having ‘homer` tendencies!
Portsmouth as we all know have more problems off the pitch than on it but even on it the bottom club have faced an uphill struggle all season. At times they play attractive football and have been unlucky on a number of occasions not to come away with more points but the facts speak for themselves.
Pompey have won just one of their last 26 away games in the Premier League, and they have failed to score in their last four matches on the road. It is difficult to know how the Pompey players will react to the almost certain news that they will be relegated after being forced into administration and having nine-points deducted. Their heads could drop and they could throw in the towel but then they might decide to play for pride or decide their future is no longer going to be at Fratton Park and start show-boating their skills in front of the cameras trying to attract other clubs for next season. We just have to focus on our game and raise it to the highest level possible as though we were playing Manchester United. Three points are no use to Pompey, they are vital for us!
If we go ahead, Pompey really could give up the ghost and it might then be easier to put the game beyond their reach. Providing we don`t revert to playing like a load of duffers, I can see this game finishing 3-0 or 4-0 to the Clarets. 4-0 what the hell!
I guess it further emphasises the importance of getting three points against Portsmouth in our predicament when the next game up is at the Emirates against high-flying Arsenal on Saturday 6th March (3pm Kick-Off)