Burnley play Birmingham City at Turf Moor on Saturday looking to win their fourth consecutive league game in a row.
Burnley are on a roll at the moment with three consecutive league wins under their belt but can they make it four and eat their next opponents, Birmingham City for breakfast? Brum are the visitors to Turf Moor this Saturday and if relative form and league position are anything to go by, Burnley should not be making a meal of it! The Clarets have done well to keep their play-offs hopes alive and are now in eight spot on a par with7th placed Brighton who have a superior goal difference. Both clubs are four points behind Watford in sixth place who also have a game in hand. A good victory away to Millwall last Saturday left the club in 7th spot but a late goal by the Seagulls in their midweek game away to Blackburn Rovers gave them an extra point in a 1-1 draw to go above Burnley on goal difference only. Clarets fans though won`t begrudge them that against our deadly rivals who have now lost their game in hand over Burnley and are now five points behind them.
In contrast Birmingham continue to struggle and they are currently in 20th spot with just 31 points from 28 games (11 points fewer than the Clarets!) . They are looking over their shoulder at the drop zone and only have five points more than third from bottom club, Peterborough who we play next a week on Saturday at London Road. Brum are also in financial difficulties and the club confirmed this week that they are open to offers for any of their first-team players as they battle to offload a number of players to reduce their wage bill. These must be unsettling times for Birmingham gaffer, Lee Clark and his squad; certainly a situation the Clarets need to take advantage of. Brum are now also out of the FA Cup after going down 2-1 at home to Leeds in the third round replay last week. Had either club still been in the competition of course this game would not be going ahead on FA Cup 4th Round weekend. Birmingham have not won any of their last six games (including the FA Cup third round game and replay) and only won one of their last six league matches. They have had three draws out of the six games though including the recent 2-2 against Burnley at St Andrews last month. The Clarets should be favourites to pick up another three points on Saturday but this is the unpredictable Championship where anything can happen and invariably does so we need to be on our guard.
Burnley Team News:
Michael Duff did not make the trip to Millwall last Saturday after being injured in training. News is awaited on recovery progress. Charlie Austin is thought to be close to a return but Ben Mee looks set to remain sidelined. Junior Stanislas also seemed to be struggling with injury when he was substituted on 70 minutes against the Lions so his replacement, KeithTreacy could make a start on Saturday.
Player to watch: Danny Ings
If Austin is fit again, he is more likely to replace Vokes than Ings. Ings could be key to assisting either Vokes or Austin and has been lively and pretty effective in recent games. Just needs to put more of his own chances away perhaps so let`s hope Brum get the brunt of it on Saturday!
Birmingham City Team News:
Blues full-back Will Packwood is out for the rest of the season after breaking his leg during their 1-1 FA Cup third round draw with Leeds.
Nikola Zigic salvaged a stoppage-time point for Birmingham in a 2-2 draw in their last game at home to Brighton. He had replaced former Clarets winger, Wade Elliott for the start of the second half and could now make a start with Elliott back on the bench. Midfielder Keith Fahey has also had a period on leave in Ireland due to personal family reasons but has now resumed training with Dublin club, Shamrock Rovers, before his planned return to Birmingham in a few weeks time.
Player to watch: Steven Caldwell
Another former Clarets player who along with Wade Elliott now both play for Brum having tasted play-offs victory at Wembley with Burnley! Criticised for having lack of pace before he left the Clarets could we now exploit this weakness at Turf Moor? Captain Caldwell even got on the score-sheet against Brighton! In typical fashion, the unmarked Caldwell met Rob Hall’s corner after 18 minutes to power a header past Kuszczak! Maybe we should be wary of him from corners at the very least and hope our wingers and strikers can make mincemeat of him when he`s trying to defend.
Team & Tactics:
Well if Michael Duff is fit enough to play would he automatically displace David Edgar who did well in the centre of defence last week against Millwall? If Charlie Austin is fit, would he automatically replace either Vokes or Ings? Both scored last week and at times both have looked sharp in recent games although they have probably missed more chances than they scored, where Austin might have been more successful. Some assumptions have to be made depending on the fitness of players, especially Charlie Austin. I suspect if he his fit, he will make an immediate return to the starting eleven but let`s assume he is not. I won`t make the call on Edgar or Duff but would be fine in that position in my opinion. If Stanislas is still struggling, then start Treacy! Lots of options and we haven`t even mentioned Brian Stock and whether he should be back in the starting eleven! There is something true in the statement though why change a winning team so let`s go with:
Grant, Trippier, Shackell, Edgar or Duff, Lafferty, Wallace, McCann, Marney, Stanislas or Treacy, Ings, Vokes
Subs: Jensen, O’Neill, Anderson, Bartley, Stock, Paterson, AN Other depending on who is fit!!
Lincolnshire referee, Darren Drysdale is in charge of this game! So far this season he has shown four red cards from 24 games and another 79 players have seen yellow. Clarets fans will be forgiven for thinking this might be his first game in charge of a match involving Burnley but in fact he refereed our game against Southampton at Turf Moor way back in September 2006. We actually lost that one 3-2 . You may remember that one which took place in the days of Steve Cotterill! Wayne Thomas was infamously sent off in the 16th minute for violent conduct with Burnley already 1-0 up at the time. Saints equalised two minutes later but despite being down to ten men, an Andy Gray goal on 33 minutes made it 2-1 at half-time. Two second half goals in the second half though sealed all three points for Southampton. Another two yellow cards were also shown that day.
When was the last time we won four league games in a row? We can do it, even though we have been haunted by that word ‘consistency` at times! Birmingham are no great shakes and have struggled in the bottom half of the table for most of the season. I will go with 3-1 to the Clarets although it would be nice to keep a fourth consecutive clean sheet as well but that might be asking too much!!
Burnley travel to London Road to play Peterborough on Saturday 2nd February (Kick-Off: 3pm)