The Clarets take a break from their Premier League survival battle this Saturday to take on Reading at the Madejski Stadium in a FA Cup 4th round clash. This will be only Brian Laws second game in charge as our new manager following a creditable baptism of fire at Old Trafford a week ago. We may have lost the game 3-0 but that score line flattered the Red Devils and it could have been a different story had we taken our chances.
The Royals will be hoping to claim another Premier League scalp this Saturday after sensationally knocking out Liverpool at Anfield in their third-round replay. Brian McDermott, the caretaker boss of Reading will also be keen to further convince the Royals board that he could take on the role permanently. Brian Laws though will be keen to get his first win under his belt against the struggling Championship side and put everybody in a good mood for the crunch clash against Owen Coyle`s Bolton at the Reebok next Tuesday night.
Reading are currently third from bottom in the Championship but they will be up for this one hoping to get revenge for the Clarets knocking them out of the Play-Offs semi-final last season when we beat them 1-0 in the first leg at Turf Moor and then 2-0 at the Madejski. It should be an entertaining game and although our survival in the top flight is our top priority, Brian Laws has also made it plain he would also like an extended run in the FA Cup competition. Don`t forget this match kicks-off early at 12:45pm.
Predicted Team Sheet
Brian Laws has been rapidly trying to assess all his players after just over a week in charge. He of course saw how well his team did against Manchester United at Old Trafford last Saturday but has also taken the opportunity to watch a reserve game in midweek away to Hull Reserves played at the North Ferriby FC ground. That match was particularly exciting because it saw the return of our trio of long-term injured players. All three put in good solid games with Martin Paterson getting our opening goal after just 10 minutes. Both Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez also played well with Burnley Reserves eventually earning a point in a 1-1 draw. Brian Laws has also since stated that all three are now in contention for a place against Reading.
Steven Caldwell though has suffered a setback and has still not recovered from a persistent groin strain. Clarke Carlisle though is now fit after being sidelined for the last five matches with a thigh injury. Andre Bikey may have relished a chance to play against his former team but he is still out in Angola playing for Cameroon in the African Nations Cup and the Indomitable Lions have just made it through to the quarter finals after finishing second in their group. Portsmouth would not let Nugent play in our last FA Cup match away to MK Dons and his ineligibility will continue against Reading. Burnley in the meantime are trying desperately hard to keep Nugent on loan to the end of the season with his loan contract now understood to expire on the 26th January.
With Brian Law keen to progress further in this competition, Clarets fans can expect a strong team to take the field although with so many options, it is difficult to predict a starting eleven and eighteen. I think Laws will show faith in the centre back pairing of Michael Duff and David Edgar who both had outstanding games last week at Old Trafford. He might also in Nugent`s absence be inclined to play Thompson upfront with Fletcher. Fletcher has recovered from the ankle injury that saw him substituted in the first half last Saturday and Thompson who replaced him had a good solid game when he came on. Martin Paterson though could be chomping at the bit for a starting eleven place after scoring in midweek in the Reserves despite having not played in the first team since last September. I would not be surprised seeing both Thompson and Paterson on at some stage in this game considering what they did the last time they played at the Madejski!
I would choose the following line-up:
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Edgar, Jordan, Alexander, Eagles, McDonald, Elliott, Fletcher, Thompson
Subs: Penny, Carlisle, Gudjonsson, McCann, Guerrero, Blake, Paterson
Reading Team News:
Defender Matt Mills will still be eligible to play despite picking up a fifth yellow in their recent away defeat against Forest. The booking was after the new 31st Dec deadline for one match bans.
Midfielders, Gylfi Sigurðsson (foot injury) and Maret Matejovsky (abdominal problem) both missed the Forest game and remain doubts for Saturday. Brynjar Gunnarsson could be recalled into midfield. Striker Noel Hunt and defender Chris Armstrong are also still sidelined with knee injuries.
Julian Kelly (shoulder) will also miss out.
Rasiak could return to the starting eleven and partner Church up front in preference to Thorvadlsson.
Player to watch: Simon Church
Striker,Simon Church is homegrown talent born in High Wycombe. He made his full first team debut for Reading in the play-off semi-final second leg defeat to Burnley on 12th May 2009 and has since found more opportunity to play now that Doyle and Kitson have left the club. The 21 year old Welsh Under 21 international forward has netted four times in sixteen games for the Royals; his most recent being the goal he scored against Liverpool in the FA Cup 3rd round at the Madejski to put the Royals 1-0 up.
Burnley Team News:
Martin Paterson (torn cartilage), Chris McCann (cruciate and medial ligament damage) and Jay Rodriguez (broken ankle) all returned to play their first competitive game since last September in a reserves match against Hull City Reserves in midweek. All three impressed Brian Laws enough to put them in contention for a place against Reading.
Andre Bikey though is still on international duty for Cameroon in the African Nations Cup in Angola so won`t be playing against his former club. David Nugent is once more cup-tied and skipper, Steven Caldwell is still sidelined with his persistent groin strain. Clarke Carlisle though has recovered from his thigh strain injury and there have been no serious after effects from the ankle injury to Fletcher who last week hobbled off at Old Trafford following a foul by Valencia.
Player to watch: Steven Thompson
Thompson had a good game after coming on to replace the injured Fletcher in the first half against United at Old Trafford last week and was unlucky not to score after heading against the post with the score at 2-0 and seven minutes to play. I expect Thompson will feature at some point against Reading in the absence of Nugent and he will be keen to impress the new gaffer and secure a regular starting eleven position. He will be hoping for a repeat on this ground last season in the play-offs semi-final second leg when he scored a stunning score to ensure a 2-0 victory and our marc to Wembley.
Back to the Future
The last time Burnley were in the top flight in 1975-76, Reading were in the old 4th Division but would finish 3rd that season and be promoted to Division 3. Both clubs would do a bit of yo-yoing up and down the Leagues over the next 30 years or so but Reading would be in the ascendency in general with Burnley in decline until our long haul back began after the lows that led to the Orient game. It is now the turn of Reading to struggle with relegation to League 1 currently staring them in the face.
After two seasons in the top flight in 2006-07 and 2007-08, Reading under Steve Coppell were back in the Championship and of course last season we broke the Royals hearts by defeating them in the play-offs semi final over two legs. A 1-0 victory over Reading at Turf Moor in the first leg was memorable more for the sending off of Andre Bikey then of course playing for the Royals. After seeing the red card, the red mist descended. It was a bizarre incident in which he angrily removed his shirt and threw it to the ground before storming off the pitch. Bikey was severely punished both by his club and the FA involving a fine and a six match ban which included the second leg at the Madejski. The second leg of course was a fantastic night for all Clarets fans booking our place to Wembley after a stunning goal each by first Martin Paterson and then Steven Thompson from distance. Reading will certainly be seeking revenge for that 2-0 defeat and we have to stop them getting it.
Chester referee Mike Jones is in charge of this one. He was also in charge of our home games against Hull and Fulham this season.
If the team plays like they did against Manchester United last week but this time take their chances we should be too strong for the struggling Championship side and I will plump for a 2-0 Clarets win.
The match every Clarets fan now wants to win after our former disgraced manager decided to jump ship for Bolton. We play them next at the Reebok on the night of Tuesday 26th January (Kick-Off 8pm)