The Clarets return from their international break on Saturday with a home game against mid-table Ipswich Town and they will be desperate for a return to form after picking up just one point from their last three games.
It is crunch time now for the Clarets as they embark on a heavy April programme of matches that will make or break our promotion hopes. They will play 8 matches this month starting with Ipswich at home this Saturday and finishing with Leeds United away on Saturday April 30th. Hopefully by the time we play Cardiff City at home in our final game of the season on Saturday 7th May we will already be assured of a place in the play-offs. That is the target for Eddie Howe with the Clarets currently in 8th spot just three points behind 6th placed Nottingham Forest with a game in hand.
Our current form though must be a major worry for the gaffer. We have simply just not been at the races in the last three games dropping points against pretty average opposition. Defeats at home to Millwall and last week away to Bristol City plus a measly point at home to struggling, manager-less Coventry City does not auger well for the Clarets and somehow we have to stop the rot if we are to get our promotion dreams back on track.
There really can be no excuses for not getting a victory over Paul Jewell`s Ipswich Town. The Tractor Boys season is effectively over. They are in 15th spot on 49 points already 11 points behind Forest in 6th and 14 points clear of the relegation zone. Realistically all they can be playing for is pride and Clarets have to hope that their pride is followed by a fall. Ipswich though have only lost one of their last six away games having won 3 and drawn 2 so we will need to be on our guard.
Burnley Team News:
Danny Fox will be sidelined for this game after receiving a two-match ban for his 10th yellow card picked up in last week`s clash at Ashton Gate.
Strikers, Charlie Austin (dislocated shoulder), Martin Paterson (thigh injury) and Steven Thompson (infected groin surgery) are all out of contention and it is still too early for midfielder, Chris McCann.
Dean Marney missed the last game against Bristol City with a knee injury sustained in the previous match at home to Coventry. Hopefully the international break will have given him further time to fully recover but we await news of his injury and his chances of playing on Saturday.
Eddie Howe delved into the loan transfer market this week on deadline day signing young Everton centre back, Shane Duffy. It remains to be seen if he will be selected in the eighteen for the Ipswich game.
Player to watch: Marvin Bartley
It would be very harsh on Bartley if he drops back to the bench on Saturday. Given his first full debut against Bristol City at Ashton Gate last Saturday due to an injury to Dean Marney, the midfielder shone out from the rest and was our Man of the Match by some distance. His eagerness, skill and determination was hopefully enough to impress Howe into giving him an extended run in the side.
Ipswich Town Team News:
One player we won`t need to worry about is striker Tamas Priskin. The 24-year-old Hungary international this week joined Swansea City on loan until the end of the season.
Keeper, Brian Murphy played in a reserves game against Watford last Thursday night after being out for three months with a broken ankle but it is probably too early for him to make an appearance against the Clarets.
Long-term absentee Alan Quinn, who has not played at all this season due to a long-standing groin problem, suffered another setback in February having to undergo another operation. At the time, Paul Jewell said the 31 year old Republic of Ireland international midfielder would be out for another 3-4 weeks but so far he has not made a return to the first team.
Player to watch: David Norris
Attacking midfielder, David Norris has the knack of scoring and is currently Ipswich`s joint leading goal-scorer with nine-goals to his credit so far this season, a tally he shares with striker, Jason Scotland. Scotland though has scored all his in the Championship with Norris picking up three of his goals in the Carling Cup.
The 30 year old captain who can play both in the centre and right of midfield signed from Plymouth Argyle in January 2008 for an undisclosed fee penning a contract until later this year.
Team & Tactics
Eddie Howe changed things around slightly for the last match but once again we looked lacklustre in so many areas of the park away to Bristol City especially in the centre of defence. Clarke Carlisle could be fearful of losing his place to the new lad, Shane Duffy against Ipswich after making a blunder in defence leading to the Robins second goal.
Could Michael Duff also be back to stake a claim, after losing his place to Andre Bikey? Bikey at times looked stronger in defence than both Duff and Carlisle in recent matches but then also had his wayward moments making a few gaffes and putting the defence under pressure.
Howe has another headache in the back four with the loss of Danny Fox at left back who is suspended after picking up his tenth yellow card at Ashton Gate last Saturday. This is probably an easier decision for Howe though with Brian Easton looking set to make a return at left back.
Jack Cork and Chris Eagles have both underperformed recently for the Clarets in midfield and it is crucial they get their form back against Ipswich. Dean Marney even if he has fully recovered from injury might be wondering if he will go straight back into the starting eleven with his deputy Marvin Bartley being our best player against the Robins.
I will stick with the following team selection but we have to hope a lot of these players buck their ideas up and quickly after the last three dire games:
Grant, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Easton, Cork, Elliott, Bartley, Wallace, Eagles, Rodriguez
Subs: Jensen, Duff or Duffy, Edgar, Marney (if fit), Alexander, Delfouneso, Iwelumo
We simply can`t afford to drop any points and I don`t think we will providing we can find our earlier form that saw Eddie Howe`s team win five from six games before the last three horror shows. 2-1 Clarets!
They will be coming thick and fast in April. We play Leicester away next at the Walkers Stadium on Saturday 9th April (3pm Kick-Off)