Date: 23rd December 2011 at 7:53am
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Burnley face struggling Doncaster Rovers at Turf Moor on Boxing Day Monday hoping to come away with all three points and keep Clarets fans` festive spirits high.

The Pre-amble:

The Clarets now have an ideal opportunity to steal a march on our rivals for promotion with two home games over the festive period before the end of the year. Burnley are just five points off the play-offs spots in 12th place, so six points from their next two games, could see the Clarets sitting pretty in the Top 10 and ideally placed for a promotion push in the New Year. Just Hull City, on New Year`s Eve and first Doncaster Rovers on Boxing Day stand in their way!

Doncaster Rovers have struggled this season but they too seem capable of producing an odd shock or two particularly at home. They recently beat league leaders, Southampton 1-0 at the Keepmoat and in their last game (also at home) defeated high-spending Leicester City 2-1. Their away form is less than impressive though and they have lost five and won just one of their last six games on the road. Rovers are also another club to have experienced a managerial change this season. In September 2011 the club announced that both manager Sean O’Driscoll and assistant manager Richard O’Kelly had been sacked following a poor start to the season with the side picking up just one point from their first seven games. Former Wrexham manager Dean Saunders with Brian Carey as his assistant were named as the replacements and although there has been some improvement, the club still find themselves in a precarious position second from bottom. They have just 19 points from 22 games although they are only two points now away from safety so they will be keen to get something at Turf Moor on Boxing Day Monday.

Burnley Team News:

Danny Ings (cartilage) and Brian Jensen (groin) are both on the road to recovery and are expected to be available for selection soon in the New Year. There is no news of any fresh injury concerns for Eddie Howe following our 1-0 away win against nine-men Brighton last Saturday.

Player to watch: Martin Paterson

Pato made his first start since the opening game of the season away to Brighton last Saturday. He put in a good shift too and was arguably our best striker on the pitch lasting nearly 70 minutes before being substituted. His 100th appearance for the club last Saturday playing against the Seagulls would certainly prove to be more successful than that opening day at home to Watford which led to injury and a recurrence of his thigh problem. That injury kept him sidelined for most of the season until he returned in the game at home to Pompey two weeks ago after coming on from the bench.

It will be interesting to see if Howe shows faith in Paterson again against Doncaster with so many strikers to choose from at the moment. Pato does though offer something different when in top form and his energy and determination knows no bounds. He will certainly be keen to start hitting the back of the net again and Howe may well offer him that chance by giving him another start.

Doncaster Rovers Team News:

Well it certainly won`t be` thumbs up` for the first and second-choice Doncaster keepers at the moment! Both Neil Sullivan and Carl Keme (on loan from Wolves) are suffering from freak thumb injuries. Keme recently injured the digit in training and missed the last game against Leicester. He is expected to be sidelined for about eight weeks. Young keeper, Gary Woods who has also just returned to fitness after a collar bone injury therefore looks set to play again.

Burnley will no longer need to worry about West Brom on-loan and in form striker Marc-Antoine Fortune. He has been recalled by the injury-hit parent club for the festive period. However his place could be taken by controversial striker, El-Hadji Diouf. The 30 year old Senegal international signed a three-month contract for the club back in October but has recently been sidelined after picking up a hamstring injury. He is however expected to be available for the Boxing Day clash and if he does feature, the former Bolton and Blackburn player is bound to get a warm welcome from the Clarets faithful (Not!)

32 year old defender Pascal Chimbonda, another former Blackburn Rovers player also arrived at the Keepmoat in September after agreeing a short-term deal but he has been sidelined with a hip injury. It is thought he could make a return sometime over the festive period so Clarets fans will have to wait and see if there will be another former Rovers player they can wind-up on Boxing Day.

Player to watch: Billy Sharp

Billy Sharp is the Yorkshire club`s leading goal scorer this season so far. He has nine goals to his credit with all of them scored in the Championship. Sharp scores at a rate of virtually one goal every two games and will certainly be the main player to try and keep quiet on Boxing Day.

The 25 year old former Sheffield United and Scunthorpe striker has also been the subject of rumour mongering recently that he could be on Eddie Howe`s radar so Clarets fans may have added interest in seeing how well he performs. Due to a contractual clause though it will cost at least £3 million to prise him away from the Keepmoat in the January window!

Sharp is certainly the main goal-scoring threat, the next highest scorer is 32 year old striker, James Hayter with just three goals which tends to sum up Doncaster`s plight this season. Our defence will hopefully keep them at bay and secure their fourth clean sheet of 2011-12.

Team & Tactics:

The gaffer will be hoping to continue our winning ways after beating the Seagulls 1-0 at the Amex Stadium last Saturday but what sort of team will he select? I suspect he will revert back to the more familiar 4-4-2 formation for the home game against Doncaster Rovers which could mean the opportunities for some of our midfielders could be limited with Dean Marney looking the most likely to be dropped back to the bench. Howe also has a plethora of strikers to choose from and he could select any two of the following for the starting eleven-Jay Rodriguez, Martin Paterson, Charlie Austin, Sam Vokes, Zavon Hines and Alex MacDonald. I suspect he will start Pato along with Jay Rod with Vokes and Austin on the bench similar to the Brighton game but it`s nice to have so many options up front!

If we play 4-4-2, we could see the return of Stanislas on the flank with Wallace on the other wing. Keith Treacy seems out of favour at the moment and is struggling even to make the bench. Stanislas has not played particularly well of late though so he could struggle to make the sixteen. Amougou was a surprise addition to the bench against the Seagulls and it will be interesting to see if he retains his place; if not expect Brian Easton to return.

I will predict the following line-up in 4-4-2.

Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee, Wallace, McCann, Bartley, Stanislas, Rodriguez, Paterson

Subs: Stewart, Amougou (or Easton), Marney, Vokes, Austin

This is more what I suspect Howe will do rather than necessarily my preferred choice but we shall on Saturday how close I am

Ref Watch:

Lancashire referee, David Webb gets this match and so far this season he has handed out 4 red cards and 67 yellows in the 21 games he has featured. His last game involving Burnley was last season in April this year when we defeated promotion-winning Swansea 2-1 at Turf Moor.

Match Prediction:

We never seem to do that well against Doncaster Rovers but we have to this time if we are to continue our push for a play-offs spot. We should be too strong for them but how many times have we said that this season against teams beneath us in the Championship? We should win at home against a club second-from-bottom but we all know what sort of shocks are continually being thrown up in this division. After Brighton, I am going for a less-than convincing 1-0 win but at least that will bring some Boxing Day cheer and another clean sheet!

Next Match:

Our last game of 2011 is another home match this time against Hull City to be played on New Year`s Eve Saturday 31st December 2011 (Kick-Off 3pm)