Date: 13th January 2012 at 3:51pm
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Burnley face a tricky away game against high-flying Middlesbrough at the Riverside this Saturday still looking for their first win of 2012.

The Pre-amble

The Clarets play high-flying Middlesbrough at the Riverside this Saturday hoping to get back to winning ways after two successive defeats including an early FA Cup exit in our last game away to Premier league, Norwich City. We simple have to forget the comprehensive 4-1 mauling we received at the hands of the Canaries last Saturday and focus on the Championship. In our last league game, we also suffered after two late goals by Leeds denied the Clarets any points. It was a frustrating afternoon for Clarets fans following the red card for two bookable offences shown to Kieran Trippier in the 29th minute of the game. Despite that controversial decision, the Clarets still managed to get their noses in front only to concede two late goals with the last one coming deep into added time.

The misery of Leeds is hopefully now a distant memory with the lads focussing instead on their form before that game. We had a wonderful December and managed to clock up six wins out of seven to get within three points of the play-offs spots by the end of the year. Despite still looking for our first win of 2012 after two successive defeats; we remain well-placed in the Championship to mount a promotion challenge. We are in 11th spot just three points behind 6th placed club. Hull City so it will be a massive three points if we can manage to beat 4th placed Middlesbrough on their home soil.

Middlesbrough`s recent form has been impressive. They have won four and drawn one of their last six games. At the Riverside, they are not invincible but have won three of their last six games at home with two drawn.

Boro manager, Tony Mowbray won the npower manager of the month award for December with Eddie Howe also in contention losing out. Hopefully there will now be a ‘poisoned chalice` effect and Burnley will come away with all three points!

Middlesbrough Team News:

Winger and attacking midfielder, Barry Robson sits out the second of his two match ban after picking up a tenth yellow card in the 3-0 defeat away to Blackpool.

Former Charlton midfielder, Nicky Bailey will be sidelined for up to two months after damaging his medial knee ligament in the game against Peterborough on New Year`s Eve. Kevin Thompson looks set to continue as his replacement.

Goalkeeper, Jason Steele limped off with a thigh strain in Boro`s FA Cup game at home to Shrewsbury last Saturday with former Clarets keeper, Danny Coyne taking over. The results of a scan on Steele`s thigh are awaited.

Three midfielders also have niggling injuries and were sidelined for the FA Cup clash last Saturday against Shrewsbury-Merouane Zemmama (groin strain), Julio Arca (slight knee stiffness) and Faris Haroun .They will be assessed ahead of the Burnley clash.

Middlesbrough are also trying to sign Coventry striker, Lukas Jutkiewicz although they may not be able to complete a deal in time for Saturday`s clash.

Player to watch: Marvin Emnes

Sadly for Clarets fans, Marvin Emnes is back in contention for a start after recently recovering from his hamstring injury. He made a start in the FA Cup clash against Shrewsbury and ominously for the Clarets scored his first goal since November as the middleman in a three-pronged attack.

Despite absences due to injury and suspension this season, he is still Boro`s leading goal scorer by some distance having scored 11 goals, seven of them in the League. The Dutchman joined Boro from Sparta Rotterdam in July 2008 for £3.2 million after agreeing a four-year contract.

Burnley Team News:

It is still uncertain if Michael Duff will be fit enough to start at Middlesbrough on Saturday although the defender is now back in training following a hamstring injury. Duff has missed the last three games since limping off against Doncaster. Our back four though will be boosted by the return of Kieran Trippier following his automatic one match suspension against Norwich last Saturday.

Ross Wallace also took a knock in the game against Norwich last week and had to be substituted but is now thankfully fit again.

Danny Ings is also set to make his first appearance in a Clarets shirt next week after recovering from his cartilage injury. He is lined up to play in the Reserves away to Preston North End on Wednesday. Ings and it will be a tough test against the current leaders and last season`s Central League champions. Ings was injured in training just two days after signing from Bournemouth in August last year and has yet to make his full debut for the Clarets.

It is doubtful if Sam Vokes will feature in this game. His loan contract expires the day after the game and it is likely he will return to Molineux at the weekend before Mick McCarthy decides whether to loan him out again either to Burnley or more likely to another club, prepared to play him more.

Player to watch: David Edgar

Edgar penned an extension to his contract this week until 2014 and will be keen to justify the club`s faith in him. Hopefully, with Kieran Trippier back, he will be back in the centre of defence having looked distinctly uncomfortable at right back after standing in for the suspended defender. He will have his work cut out though trying to keep Emnes and a probable three-pronged attack at bay.

Team & Tactics

Eddie Howe seems to have a dilemma up front depending on the formation he chooses to play. The gaffer tends to be more defensive away from home usually electing to go with a five man midfield with a holding midfielder and one up front. However against Norwich, he was more attack-minded and started Martin Paterson, Charlie Austin and Jay Rodriquez in attack with Wallace playing in the hole behind them. The tactics though to be honest did not really work and the absence of recognised wingers tended to expose the full backs putting them under pressure in defence.

So what tactics will he choose against Middlesbrough? I can see Howe reverting back to more a defence minded formation with Dean Marney likely to be taking a key role as holding midfielder in front of the back four and with more width from recognised wingers.

With Trippier likely to return at right back following his one match ban, the centre defence pairing is likely to be Edgar and Mee assuming Duff is still sidelined with injury. I suspect Amougou will miss out completely with Duff on the bench if fit enough to play.

The most difficult decision could be whether to play one or two up front. With three key strikers to choose from, assuming Vokes is not in contention, Austin looks the most likely to be dropped to the bench. I suspect Howe will want to accommodate both Rodriguez and Paterson somehow in his starting eleven although one of them could well play a wider role.

Team predictions are becoming more difficult these days with so many options but I will go with the following:

Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Mee, Easton, Marney, Wallace, McCann, Bartley, Rodriguez, Paterson

Subs: Stewart, Amougou (or Duff if fit), Stanislas, Treacy, Austin`

Ref Watch:

West Yorkshire referee Robert Madley gets this one! In his 22 games so far this season, he has shown just two red cards and a modest 43 yellows. His last game involving the Clarets was this season in our 2-1 away defeat to Birmingham back in November. Just two yellow cards were shown that day!

Match Prediction:

There is no doubt this will be a difficult game for the Clarets. To come away from the Riverside with anything at all will be a feather in our cap. I will plump for the ‘Law of Averages` principle to predict this one and go for a 2-2 draw! Remarkably we have not drawn a game now since we played Southampton at home back in September, 21 games ago!

Next Match:

It`s Derby County next at home on Saturday 21st January (Kick-Off: 3pm)