The Clarets start their long campaign on the road this month with a trip to Vicarage Road to face Watford.
Burnley play Watford this Saturday in the first of a sequence of away games. We don`t play at Turf Moor now until the Palace game on Saturday 5th March and in addition after our encounter with the Hornets also have to play Cardiff and Preston away in the League.
This situation has brought about by fixture changes caused by the decision to play our FA Cup game against West Ham this month at the Boleyn Ground on a Monday night so ESPN can cover the match live. Two of our scheduled home games this month against Coventry and Middlesbrough have been affected and new dates later in the season have now been confirmed.
The Clarets will be keen to get their first back-to-back win of the season against Watford and in so-doing only their second double of 2010-11 so far. It won`t be easy though against Malky MacKay`s men although the two teams are pretty evenly matched with Watford in 9th place to the Clarets 10th on the same number of points. Both clubs have 34 points six points behind sixth placed club, Leeds United but we have played a game more than the Hornets although we do have a game in hand over Leeds. The game is therefore another crucial six pointer. Both clubs will be hoping to rise up the table and keep in contention for a play-offs spot.
Since winning seven matches in a row to claw themselves into the thick of the promotion race, Watford have since gone four games without a win so that is an Achilles Heel the Clarets will need to exploit.
Watford`s home form though is pretty impressive and they have not lost in their last seven games having won four and drawn three matches. It will certainly be an achievement to come away with any points from Vicarage Road on Saturday but we simply have to in order to keep our promotion hopes alive.
In contrast, Burnley`s away form can be best described recently as indifferent and overall this season pretty woeful with only two away wins to our credit all season. Only struggling Crystal Palace have a worse away record in the Championship.
Watford Team News:
Watford appear to have a major problem in the back four especially at left back
Hornets` defender Lloyd Doyley, who picked up a hamstring strain in their away defeat against Nottingham Forest, last Saturday, will have a late fitness test ahead of the match after a scan revealed a calf problem.
He had already come in to replace loan defender, Andrew Taylor who has since returned to his parent club, Middlesbrough. At the moment then the Hornets have no senior recognised left-back
Defender Lee Hodson could have been an option but he suffered a foot injury while playing for Northern Ireland in midweek, and is a doubt for Saturday.
Eddie Oshodi is capable of playing left-but he is back out on loan at Rushden and Diamonds so Adrian Mariappa could find himself in an unfamiliar role with Dale Bennett partnering Martin Taylor at centre back.
Scottish international winger, Don Cowie is also sidelined after being ruled out this week due to a persistent thigh problem. Spurs loanee Andros Townsend looks set to play down on flank and Will Buckley down the other.
Player to watch: Danny Graham
Watford have two players in the Npower Championship Top Scorers Table. 19 year old striker, Marvin Sordell has 10 league goals so far this season but out in front with 15 goals is 25 year old forward, Danny Graham. We will have to keep both in check. Graham though started his career at Middlesbrough in 2003.A number of loan spells followed including Darlington, Derby, Leeds, Blackpool and Carlisle. He was released by Middlesbrough in May 2007 and signed a two-year deal with Carlisle United in June 2007.
Carlisle tried and failed to renew Graham’s contract a number of times before he joined Watford on a free transfer in July 2009. A tribunal later decided that Watford should pay £200,000 in compensation to Carlisle which could rise to £500,000.
Burnley Team News:
There is no news of any fresh injuries following our win at home to Norwich last Saturday so only Martin Paterson and Chris McCann are still sidelined with injury.
Pato looks likely to be out for the rest of the season following a recurrence of his thigh problem in the game at the Keepmoat against Doncaster.
Chris McCann is still undergoing long-term recovery from the surgery to correct his cruciate problem but could be on track to make an appearance at some stage before the end of the season. Eddie Howe`s squad was also boosted by the return recently of right back, Richard Eckersley following completion of his loan spell at Bradford.
Player to watch: Charlie Austin
Burnley fans will be eager for our new striker to start making an impression and getting on the score sheet for the Clarets. He has started the last two league games since arriving from Swindon but he has not overly impressed to date in the matches away to Doncaster and at home to Norwich. His confidence though will be boosted if he could open his account against the Hornets. The pace of the Championship could need some getting used to after plying your trade in League 1 for so long but Howe and Tindall seem confident all will come good.
Team & Tactics
We should perhaps expect more of the same after convincingly beating Norwich City in the end at Turf Moor last Saturday although Howe could be tempted to give Marvin Bartley his debut in midfield. The question would be though who would you drop to make way for the former Bournemouth player who was signed by the Cherries former gaffer, Eddie Howe on the last day of the January transfer window. Dean Marney was arguably man of the match against Norwich and Jack Cork is always influential and a cut above the rest.
Difficult to call, but I think we should take the game to Watford and at least start 4-4-2 with Austin and new England Under 21 international, Rodriguez up front. It remains to be seen if Wade Elliott is recalled for a start after coming on from the bench in the match against the Canaries.
This would be my team of choice under the 4-4-2 system but Marney, I suspect will be retained in the starting eleven.
Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox, Eagles, Cork, Bartley, Elliott, Rodriguez, Austin.
Subs: Jensen, Bikey, Alexander, Marney, Wallace, Iwelumo, Thompson
Staffordshire referee, Tony Bates gets this one so we can crack all those corny jokes again about the referee (Master Bates) being a w******!!!
Bates has been a qualified referee since 1983 and was added to the National List of assistant referees in 1993. He became a FIFA assistant referee in 1996 and appointed to Euro 1996. He joined the National List of Referees in 1996 and is now one of the longest serving.
In 24 games refereed this season at Championship level or in the lower leagues, Bates has handed out 4 red cards and 66 yellows. His last game involving the Clarets was our match against Hull at Turf Moor back in September. Only one yellow card was dished out that day with the Clarets eventually thumping the Tigers 4-0.
This will be a close call and if past encounters are anything to go by it could be high-scoring game. One goal to either side could shade it so I am going for a 2-1 Clarets victory to hopefully at long last clock up our first back-to-back league away win of the season and our second double after defeating the Hornets 3-2 in the game at Turf Moor earlier in the season.
We play Cardiff City at their stadium on the night of Tuesday 15th February (Kick-Off 7:45 pm). This is the rearranged game following postponement of the original fixture in December due to snow and ice.