Date: 19th February 2011 at 10:32am
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The Clarets attempt to reach the quarter finals of the FA Cup on Monday night but face a tricky game away against Premier League club, West Ham.

The Preamble

It is the Battle of Claret & Blue on Monday night when Burnley travel to the Boleyn Ground to play West Ham hoping to progress to the last eight of the FA Cup. Burnley have had a relatively easy passage so far in the FA Cup despatching League 2 opposition at home in the 3rd and 4th round games. Port Vale were sent packing after a convincing 4-2 Clarets victory and there was little joy either for Burton Albion who lost 3-1. We are now just one of two Championship clubs still left in the competition along with Reading. West Ham will be hoping for another Championship scalp though on their home turf with first Barnsley (2-0) and then Nottingham Forest (3-2) coming away empty handed from Upton Park. Their morale though could be low in view of their poor league form and lowly position with just one win now in their last six league games. The Hammers have also lost three of their last home games and drawn one.

It won`t be easy however for the Clarets against Premier League opposition even if the Hammers are currently struggling second from bottom in the top flight league table.

We could though have the psychological advantage with rumours floating around that Avram Grant could be tempted to rest some of his key players in an effort to preserve them for the relegation battle that lies ahead. Their priority is clearly survival and this FA Cup game could be more of a hindrance than a help for the Hammers at this moment in time which is a situation that could play into Burnley`s hands.

There is no doubt that under new gaffer, Eddie Howe our performances have improved of late especially on the road and he seems to have instilled a new found confidence into the team. We should be up for this one with a quarter final at stake no matter what team Avram Grant decides to put out so a shock could be on the cards. Let`s hope so!

Clarets fans are also reminded this match is being covered live by ESPN and kicks-off at 8pm

West Ham Team News:

The Hammers are expected to give a debut to 28 year old German international midfielder, Thomas Hitzlsperger on Monday night. He signed for West Ham from Lazio in June 2010 on a three-year deal but was then out with an injury following a Euro 2012 qualifying game for Germany back in August. Hitzlsperger had suffered a torn thigh muscle but he looked to be ready to make a return after the injury healed within eight weeks. He sadly though then suffered a setback in training last October when the thigh muscle completely detached from the bone requiring surgery that would keep him sidelined for at least four months. He has now recovered fully though.

The fitness of James Tomkins (calf) and Matthew Upson (Achilles) will be assessed over the weekend.

The big question is whether Grant might be tempted to rest some of his players and there is a rumour that he might keep Scott Parker, Matthew Upson (if fit) Wayne Bridge and Demba Ba on the bench.

Player to watch: Victor Obina

Joint leading goal-scorer, Victor Obina scored a hat-trick in West Ham`s last FA Cup game at home to Forest and then followed that up with a brace in their 3-1 away win at Blackpool.

He is one of three strikers on eight goals so far this season for West Ham in all competitions sharing the limelight with Carlton Cole and Frédéric Piquionne.

The 23 year old Nigerian international is on a season long loan from Internazionale and arrived in August 2010 with a view to making a permanent move in the summer.

He is actually a winger but can play as a striker which is proven by his goal tally to date. Clearly one the Clarets will need to keep a close eye on.

Burnley Team News:

Burnley will be without January signings Charlie Austin and Marvin Bartley since both are cup-tied.

David Edgar is back at Turf Moor and could also be in contention for a place in the eighteen after his loan move to Swansea City this week broke down because of a problem with the paperwork. FIFA refused to accept the error.

Steven Thompson could still feature despite carrying an infection in his groin which will require surgery in March.

The only two players sidelined with injury continue to be Martin Paterson (recurrent thigh strain) and Chris McCann (recovery from a head operation to remove excess fluid following complaints of repeated migraines). McCann is expected to return to training in the next two weeks but Pato could be out for the rest of the season.

Player to watch: Clarke Carlisle

Assuming Alexander does not start this game, the captaincy will fall to Clarke Carlisle. He needs to be both strong in defence and strong in leadership if we are to get a result in this game and progress to the quarter finals.

Team & Tactics

Eddie Howe will certainly want to field his strongest team in this one and it will be interesting to see if he takes a more defensive stance against Premier League opposition (4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1) or adopts a more attacking style by taking the game to the Hammers in 4-4-2.

West Ham may be struggling but it`s all about pace in the top flight and taking advantage on the break. We were caught out time and time again last season in the Premier League so have we learned the lesson?

I think I would take the more attacking stance rather than play defensively. If we get a goal and take the lead the pressure will be on West Ham and the crowd could get on their back. We will just have to be on our guard should West Ham charge forward on the break and our back four will certainly need to be at the top of their game.

I would have Iwelumo and Rodriguez up front supported by Wallace and Eagles on the flanks in a true 4-4-2.

Depending on how the game pans out if we can get the lead we might then want to revert back to 4-1-4-1 with a holding midfielder:

My starting eleven and subs would be:

Grant, Mears, Carlisle, Duff, Fox, Eagles, Cork, Marney, Wallace, Iwelumo, Rodriguez

Subs: Jensen, Easton, Bikey, Edgar, Alexander, Elliott, Harvey (or maybe Eckersley), Thompson

Ref Watch:

Premier League & Champions League referee, Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire) will be in charge of this clash. Having started officiating aged just sixteen Atkinson was appointed to the Select Group Referees list in 2005. A year later he was appointed to the FIFA International Referees list.

This season in 26 games he has handed out 89 yellows and 8 reds. He could be a good omen for the Clarets considering the last game in which he featured in a match involving Burnley was last season in the Premier League when we beat Hull 4-1 at the KC Stadium.

Match Prediction:

I have a sneaky suspicion we can spring a shock result against the Hammers and shade this one 2-1. I would be even more confident if Grant decides to field a weakened team.

The last thing we need is a replay with our promotion battle ahead and a congested fixture list already mounting up. If we do draw though (and rather that than a defeat with a Wembley final on the horizon) the replay will be on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 (Kick off-7:45pm)

Next Match

We return to Championship duty on Saturday and complete our fourth away game on the trot with a juicy derby game at Deepdale against bottom club, Preston North End on the 26th February (Kick-Off 3pm)