The Clarets face Sheffield Wednesday at Turf Moor this Saturday and they will be hoping to stretch their run of games without defeat to seven matches, preferably by securing another three points to maintain their push for a play-offs spot.
Setting the Scene
Burnley are currently 8th place in the table on 52 points just one point behind Cardiff in 4th (Bluebirds have three games in hand) and Bristol City and Preston in 5th and 6th respectively (Both have played same number of games as the Clarets -34). It is however incredibly tight up there with only 3 points separating 10th placed Ipswich and 4th placed Cardiff.
It is therefore crucial that the Clarets don`t drop any points at home in the run-in with now just twelve games to play until the end of the season (six at home including the Owls). Although we are now undefeated in six games, the last two matches have been disappointing draws at home to mid-table Coventry and away to relegation threatened Norwich City. The major concern is that the side is beginning to look lacklustre and jaded, which is not surprising for a small squad having played 44 games already this season thanks to our Cup adventures.
In the last match at Carrow Road in particular a number of players only seemed to be firing on three cylinders with Martin Paterson, Robbie Blake and Chris McCann especially appearing to struggle.
Sheffield Wednesday are currently in 12th spot, seven points behind Burnley and they have a knack of stealing points off the Clarets at Turf Moor. The Owls have not lost at Turf Moor now in their last five visits, winning three and drawing two including the infamous 7-2 drubbing back in April 2003. You have to go back to October 2001 for the last time we beat them on home soil with the Clarets beating the Owls 1-0 that day. They also inflicted upon us a 4-1 defeat at Hillsborough in the opening game of this season, a shocking result that caused ructions after a successful pre-season campaign. Thankfully we have long since recovered from that nightmare but we will be seeking revenge tomorrow. One person who will remember that game will be Diego Penny, given the Number 1 jersey he hasn`t played since but it would be wrong to lay the blame that day purely at the door of the Peruvian stopper but he must be wondering what he has to do to get a game at the moment with Jensen in such top form.
The good news for Owen Coyle is that we don`t appear to have any injuries to worry about so Coyle can choose from virtually a full squad. It will be interesting to see if he rests any players for the game tomorrow and maybe bring in some of the fringe players into the starting eleven such as Jay Rodriguez to freshen up the side.
Christian Kalvenes is understood to have recovered from his groin problem and Chris Eagles could be ready to start after struggling from a chest infection in recent matches and coming on from the bench late in the game. He is understood to be close to full fitness and could relish a game against one of his former clubs. Eagles was on loan to Sheffield Wednesday whilst on Manchester United`s books and made 25 appearances for the club in 2005 before returning to Old Trafford.
So this is an interesting challenge for Coyle in terms of naming a starting eleven and sixteen. There are far too many combinations and permutations to predict this one so I will name the team that I would like to see. Basically, I think it might be time to rest Pato, Blake and McCann but have them available on the bench. Jordan will probably get the nod over Kalvenes but the back four virtually picks itself again and I think Alexander should continue in the holding midfield role rather than the straight midfield option.
I would therefore select the following:
Jensen, Williams, Duff, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Elliott, McDonald, Eagles, Rodriguez, Thompson
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Blake, McCann, Paterson
Burnley Team News:
Kalvenes and Eagles look close to full recovery and could feature in the starting eleven if not the sixteen. There are no further injury concerns or suspensions. Six players though are on four yellows and they will all be hoping to avoid picking up a fifth on Saturday, the last day before the FA Amnesty kicks-in. We shall have to hope Duff, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Eagles, Paterson and Thompson all avoid the wrath of the referee this Saturday otherwise they will pick up an automatic one-match suspension and will miss the high-profile FA Cup 5th Round match against Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday 8th March. This possibility could well be at the back of the manager`s mind though in selecting his sixteen.
Player to watch: Chris Eagles
Let`s hope that Eagles will be swooping from upon high to devour the Owls this Saturday. He could well be up for this one too against his former club.
Sheffield Wednesday Team News:
Owls` manager and former Clarets player, Brian Laws will have defender Lewis Buxton available again after serving a one-match ban.
Richard Wood faces a fitness test on a knee injury and striker Akpo Sodge could be in the frame again after suffering from a hamstring problem.
Player to watch: Marcus Tudgay
We will need to snuff out the danger from the Owls leading goal scorer this season. He currently has Championship 10 goals to his name.
Last Time We Met
We will skate over that 4-1 drubbing at Hillsborough in the season opener except to mention at least Paterson got a goal! The Owls got their second consecutive 1-1 draw at Turf Moor last season back in December 2007 despite an Akinbiyi goal.
Oh no, the referee will be Andy D’Urso. The Essex official has refereed 29 games this season and dished out 49 yellow cards and 4 reds! In two games, six yellows were in his book! The six of our players on four yellows better watch out!
Must win game, 2-0 Clarets
Local rivalry on offer at Bloomfield Road this Tuesday night (March 3rd 7:45pm KO) with Burnley playing Blackpool. The seasiders are currently in 17th place on just 38 points and it will be time to squeeze some Tangerines.