Until the Owen Coyle saga started in the New Year this fixture would just have been viewed as a normal derby albeit a must-win game against another struggling side trying to avoid relegation. That of course remains the same with the Clarets in 15th spot just one point from the drop zone and two points ahead of second-from-bottom club Bolton.
It would be an understatement now though to say this match will have some extra spice following the disappointment of Coyle jumping ship along with the whole of our backroom staff to make a sideways move down the road to the Reebok. The anger, frustration and animosity of that desertion following all the platitudes and lies of Coyle`s perceived loyalty is going to be difficult to control for a number of hurting and bitter Clarets fans.
The importance of this game in the hearts of all Clarets fans is now a million times higher than it would have been had Coyle still have been our manager and to some getting a result in this match is now even higher priority than beating Blackburn Rovers! How fitting it would now be if our first win on the road in the Premier League was against the club managed by someone who failed to achieve such a victory for the Clarets.
Predicted Team Sheet
Brian Laws will have an embarrassment of riches to choose from in the strikers department with both Martin Paterson and Jay Rodriguez now fully recovered from their injuries. Steven Fletcher was rested in the FA Cup defeat at the Madejski last Saturday and he should now be available after fully recovering from his slight ankle injury picked up in the recent game at Old Trafford. Although Steven Thompson struggled in the first half against Reading and was replaced by Paterson for the whole of the second half, it now transpires he had been suffering from an illness the night before but it is believed he has now recovered. He too therefore could now be in contention for the match against Bolton. Then we have David Nugent who is also eligible for this match with his current loan agreement not completing until after the game.
It doesn`t stop there though because we brought another striker to the club on loan last week, AS Monaco forward, Frederic Nimani and he too will be in contention assuming we get international clearance in time.
It is virtually impossible to predict the team selection up front for this one with so many options available and it will be interesting to see if we decide to play just a lone striker up front or whether we adopt a 4-4-2 formation.
Only two players in the squad will definitely not be available for this match, Andre Bikey is returning from the African Nations Cup in Angola after Cameroon were knocked out of the competition at the quarter final stage last night and captain, Steven Caldwell is still struggling with a persistent groin injury. Clarke Carlisle was on the bench last Saturday after recovering from his side injury but with both Duff and Edgar playing well in the centre of defence, Laws may wish to keep things the same in that department.
One problem for Laws could be the left-back spot. Stephen Jordan pulled up with a hamstring injury in training just before the Reading game and with Kalvenes on paternity leave; Chris McCann made a return to the first team by filling in at left back. Laws will be hoping Jordan has recovered but he remains a doubt at this stage and we await further news.
Something tells me Owen Coyle has a huge advantage in this game since he knows all our players and their strengths and weaknesses. I think Laws should attempt a few surprises and give him something new to think about. As a precaution I would then have a bench that could revert to our normal style of play should we need a Plan B. One player who has been disappointing of late is Wade Elliott and it could be time to drop the Wembley hero to the bench.
Subject to fitness and availability, I would go with the following team but in no way do I expect Brian Laws will agree!
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Edgar, Jordan, Alexander, Guerrero, McCann, McDonald, Eagles, Fletcher
Subs: Penny, Carlisle, Gudjonsson, Elliott, Blake, Nugent or Paterson, Nimani
Bolton Wanderers Team News:
Coyle has fitness concerns over several players ahead of this match.
There was great controversy last week following a challenge by Arsenal`s William Gallas on Bolton midfielder, Mark Davies in their midweek clash at the Emirates. Coyle made some strong statements in the post match interview that the tackle was ‘akin to assault ‘and despite retracting his original comments, still believes action should be taken. The referee clearly thought the challenge was hard but fair and allowed play to continue. Unfortunately for Bolton, Arsenal carried on to get an equaliser to make the score 2-2 and eventually went on to win the match 4-2 and complete a double over the Trotters having played them at the Reebok only a few days earlier. The incident though left Davies with a suspected serious ankle injury although scans later revealed the damage was not as bad as first feared. He does however look doubtful for the clash against Burnley.
Ricardo Gardner (groin), Gavin McCann (ankle) and Matt Taylor are also all doubtful, but there could be a debut for their new on-loan midfielder Vladimir Weiss. He joined this week from Manchester City.
Davis & J O’Brien (both knee) are also out injured and Danny Shittu is involved with the African Cup of Nations in Angola. The Nigerian international saw his national side progress to the semi-finals on Monday after beating Zambia 5-4.
Player to watch: Ivan Klasnić
It is perhaps telling that Bolton`s top scorer this season is a defender, our former loan player, Gary Cahill with 7 goals (5 of them in the league). In the league itself though Ivan Klasnić is their top scorer with six goals so he could be the major threat. The 29 year old Croatian international striker signed for Bolton Wanderers on transfer deadline day of the 2009-10 season on a year-long loan from FC Nantes.
Burnley Team News:
Captain, Steven Caldwell is the only player definitely out of contention due to injury. He is still suffering with a persistent groin injury.Jordan pulled up with a hamstring injury in training and missed our last match against Reading in the FA Cup 4th Round game last Saturday so remains doubtful.
Our new signing striker Frederic Nimani on loan from Monaco will be in Burnley’s squad assuming international clearance to play is received. Steven Fletcher will also return after missing the FA Cup defeat by Reading with a slight ankle problem.
Laws will face a dilemma in his choice of strikers with Nugent eligible to play despite his loan expiring after tonight and both Martin Paterson and Jay Rodriguez now fully fir to play after their long term injuries. Paterson of course played against Reading in the second half coming on from the bench at half-time to replace a lacklustre Steven Thompson. It was later revealed that Thommo had suffered from a bout of illness the previous night and it is now clear why he appeared to lack energy and influence on the pitch. Thompson will hopefully now have recovered and also be in contention.
Cameroon international, Andre Bikey will also not be available for this game due to his involvement in the African Nations Cup in Angola. He will however now be travelling home after the Indomitable Lions exit from the competition yesterday (Monday 25th) following their quarter final defeat to Egypt.
Player to watch: Chris Eagles
Mr ‘Consistently Good’ of late, Eagles could have a huge influence on the outcome of this match and we need him to continue with the excellent form he has shown recently most notably against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Back to the Future
The Clarets of course last played Bolton in the Boxing Day game at Turf Moor a month ago. A goal by Matthew Taylor from a direct free kick after 29 minutes was enough to give Bolton the half-time lead against an under par and lacklustre Clarets team before Nugent headed in Wade Elliott`s cross to equalise after 56 minutes. It was the Clarets who then surged forward looking for the winning goal. We looked a much better, determined side in the second half and had countless opportunities to put the game beyond Bolton`s reach. We just couldn`t take our chances though in a season which is becoming all too familiar in that respect and despite the possession in the end we had to settle for a disappointing draw.
These two sides had not met previously in the top flight since March 1964 when we played them twice over two days something that wouldn`t be allowed these days. In those days men were men and on the 30th March 1964, the Clarets got beat 2-1 at Burnden Park with Willie Irvine bringing the score back to 2-1 after 35 minutes play. Incredibly we then played them at Turf Moor a day later on the 31st! This time the score was 1-1, Arthur Bellamy scoring in the 81st minute to cancel out Bolton`s 58th minute goal. Bolton would be relegated that season second from bottom, with the Clarets by their own standards finishing a disappointing 9th.
We would not play them again for another 12 years and this time the clash would be in the old second division after the Clarets relegation season from the top flight at the end of 1975-76. A 0-0 draw at home and a 2-1 defeat away was all we could muster in a disappointing season that saw the Clarets finish 16th with Bolton just missing out on promotion in 4th spot.
The last time we played Bolton at the Reebok was in their promotion season of 2000-01 and it was the opening game of the season played on the 12th August 2000 in front of a crowd of 20,662 fans. Bolton opened the scoring after 26 minutes before Gray got th
Yorkshire referee, Martin Atkinson gets the honour of being in charge for this local derby and now guaranteed pot-boiler.
In all fairness a point will do nicely in this match and keep us two points ahead of the Trotters having played a game more. Three points though would be a wonderful bonus and be a huge smack in the face to our former gaffer. All Clarets fans will be hoping against hope we can get our first three points on the road this season in a match that now has an edge to it big time!
One thing we will need to be careful of will be set-pieces and we need to make sure we don`t give them too many. Bolton have scored 68% of their goals via that route which is the highest amount in the Premier League.
The Bolton current form guide though seems to give us a chance. The Trotters have not kept a clean sheet for 22 league games since a 0-0 draw with Sunderland in May and Bolton have only earned 10 points from 11 home games this season. Only Portsmouth have a worse record in the Premier League. They have also only won just one of their last 11 league games losing six of them and drawing four.
I suppose their poor home form contrasts with our poor away form with just one point in eleven games on the road so something will have to give. Four of the last five matches between these Lancashire rivals have ended in draws, including a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day. I believe a draw is on the cards again and I will go with a 2-2 score line hoping of course I am totally wrong and three points come whizzing our way!
It does not get any easier for the Clarets with our next match being against Chelsea at Turf Moor on Saturday 30th January. Clarets fans are reminded this is a late televised live match kicking off at 5:30pm.