Burnley play Derby County at Pride Park on Saturday hoping to maintain their recent momentum and keep up their challenge for a play-offs spot.
A spate of two wins in two matches following a dismal spell in which we only picked up one point from six games has buoyed up all our play-offs hopes again. Wins at home against first Swansea City and then Middlesbrough have propelled the Clarets into 9th spot just two points behind sixth placed Leeds United.
The Yorkshire outfit look catchable especially with Burnley also still having to play them at Elland Road later this month. The pressure is probably greater for them than for us at the moment. We do though also still have to worry about Nottingham Forest and Hull City in 7th and 8th spot. Both these clubs have the same number of points as the Clarets (63 to be precise) but they also have a superior goal difference which could be worth an extra point to them.
First things first though! We have the little matter of a trip to Pride Park this Saturday and it will be vital to come away with something against a Derby County side struggling to make any impression in the Championship this season.
Nigel Clough`s men are in 19th spot with 49 points, 14 fewer than Burnley and nine points away from the drop zone. The Rams however look safe although not mathematically from relegation with just four matches still to play but they will be keen to make sure and we will have to be on our guard against them on Saturday.
Their form is somewhat inconsistent to say the least although they will be pleased they managed to hold League Leaders, QPR at Loftus Road in their last match picking up a point in a 0-0 draw. They have won 2, drawn 2 and lost 2 of their last six games at Pride Park. The Rams are probably also missing their current leading goal-scorer, Kris Commons. He upped sticks in January and moved north of the Border to play for Celtic after agreeing a £300,000 move and signing a three-and-a-half year deal.
Derby County Team News:
27-year-old midfielder Paul Green will be out for up to nine months with a knee ligament injury. He picked up the injury earlier this month s in the Rams defeat at Cardiff and initial scans later revealed damage to both the cruciate and medial ligaments.
Tomasz Cywka (thigh), Jake Buxton (groin) and Saul Deeney (shoulder) also remain sidelined.
Midfielder, Ben Davies was dropped to the bench for the Rams game against QPR at Loftus Road but could be due for a recall replacing Theo Robinson. The change was made so Derby could play 4-3-3 against the league leaders but if Nigel Clough opts this time for a 4-4-2 formation, Davies could be back in favour.
Player to watch: Robbie Savage
Love him or loathe him and we know what most Clarets fans think, Savage is just the sort of player who can turn games in the most annoying of ways. Savage joined Derby County from Blackburn Rovers for a fee of £1.5 million in January 2008 signing a two-and-a-half year contract. The 36 year old Welsh international midfielder certainly seems to court controversy whenever he plays and has an unhealthy habit of picking up yellow cards. At least we won`t be seeing much more of him after he announced he would be retiring in the summer to concentrate on his media career.
Burnley Team News:
Marvin Bartley sits out the third and final match of his suspension following the straight red card away to Forest earlier this month. Chris McCann continues to make progress and has now featured in 4 Reserves games since returning from a long lay-off. Charlie Austin is out for the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder and Martin Paterson looks unlikely to feature again this season despite good progress recovering from a recurrent thigh problem.
Andre Bikey, Dean Marney and Chris Eagles all picked up knocks against Middlesbrough and could face late fitness tests.
One player who will not be in the eighteen is defender, Shane Duffy. He returned to Everton in midweek after completing his 28 day loan spell.
Player to watch: Tyrone Mears
Mears scored a rare goal in the previous clash against the Rams at Turf Moor earlier in the season. It was only his 8th career goal at the time and how fitting it was to score against his former club. The goal came direct from his free-kick after he thumped a belter over the wall from 22 yards out with the ball curling into the top corner of the net. It was a late equaliser to make it 1-1 and in added time, Jack Cork got the winner.
It would be good if he could repeat that on Saturday but I`ll be happy with a good solid defensive display and some mazy runs down the flank.
Team & Tactics
Providing Bikey, Eagles and Marney come through their fitness tests with flying colours I would expect Howe to name an unchanged eighteen with the exception of Duffy who has now returned to his parent club. David Edgar looks set for a recall on the bench.
There was little to criticise about the team following the Boro match after the players collectively put in one of their most impressive performances of the season so the team selection looks straightforward.
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Bikey, Fox, Eagles, Cork, Marney, Elliott, Rodriguez, Iwelumo
Subs: Grant, Carlisle, Alexander, Edgar, Wallace, Delfouneso, Thompson
Hertfordshire referee, Mick Russell oversees this clash. He has taken charge of 37 games this season handing out four red cards and showing 75 yellows. This game will be his first this season involving the Clarets. Russell started refereeing in the early 1990`s, progressing through the South Midlands League to reach the National List of assistant referees in 2000 before being promoted to the referees` list in 2004.
Make or break time really with every point crucial. If we play like we did against Boro last Saturday we should be far too strong for the Rams. How big an ‘if` is that though? I will be positive and suggest our new found confidence will continue. 2-1 Clarets!
The crucial Easter period continues with a home game against Portsmouth on Easter Monday (25th April 3pm Kick-Off)