The Clarets continue their hectic schedule of matches leading up the festive season on Sunday with a trip to Molineux to face third from bottom club Wolves. This is a massive six-pointer of a game when you consider we are just three points clear of Wolves in 13th place on 19 points. We simply have to try and get something from this match if we are to avoid getting too close to the relegation places for comfort. Our poor away form is legendary with just one point on the road this season from eight attempts. The law of averages says we have to win one away sometime and the Wolves clash looks to be one of our better chances.
Burnley will be buoyed by their fantastic performance in midweek against high-flying Arsenal at Turf Moor when we took the game to the Gunners and were cruelly denied victory when a goal by Fletcher was controversially ruled offside. We had to settle for a well-earned 1-1 draw in the end but Match of the Day later revealed Fletcher was not offside and had scored a perfectly good goal which should have stood. Mick McCarthy was watching the game in the Bob Lord Stand, so one hopes he was suitably impressed if not scared!
Wolves on the other hand have also hit good form despite their lowly position and last weekend sensationally beat Spurs 1-0 at White Hart Lane, a place where we got heavily thumped 5-0. The news this week though has all been about McCarthy`s bizarre decision to field a weakened team against Manchester United at Old Trafford in midweek but more of that later.
Predicted Team Sheet
With no news of any further injuries after the Arsenal match and with no suspensions, it is likely that the eighteen will be unchanged for the Wolves match in the light of that stunning performance against the Gunners on Wednesday night. If the news is true that both Martin Paterson and Jay Rodriguez are close to a return, Owen Coyle might be tempted to name one of them on the bench although I think that unlikely.
It looks like Kevin McDonald who had another strong game in midweek will retain his starting eleven place at the expense of Robbie Blake. Blake has been distinctly off-form of late and even when he came on as a substitute on Wednesday night was a little wayward with his passing. The rest could do Blake good and using him as an impact sub could be the way forward for the next few matches.
In summary therefore I expect an unchanged team with the eighteen named as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Eagles, Bikey, McDonald, Elliott, Fletcher
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Gudjonsson, Blake, Guerrero, Nugent, Thompson
Wolverhampton Wanderers Team News:
Dave Edwards is definitely out. He injured his ankle ligaments against Tottenham last weekend. Kevin Foley looks set to replace him.
One thing for sure is that the team will bear no resemblance to the one that capitulated against Manchester United at Old Trafford in midweek. McCarthy made the controversial decision to put out a weakened team in order to rest players for the Clarets clash and I just hope that despicable decision back fires on him. It is understood that the Premier League will be asking for an explanation but it`s the fans that need one in particular. 3000 Wolves fans travelled to Old Trafford and they are entitled to know why they couldn`t see their full strength team pitted against last season`s champions. It will be interesting to see what sort of reaction McCarthy gets from the home fans on Sunday especially if they go behind and eventually lose the match. Fine him that`s the only way to stop these shenanigans
We can expect most of the rested players to return against us on Sunday and I just hope they are also miffed to have missed out playing against such a high-profile team as Manchester United and that it affects their motivation and confidence.
Player to watch: Kevin Doyle
Kevin Doyle is Wolves joint top scorer in the league along with Jody Craddock on 4 goals and looks to be their main threat. Doyle has been a target for the Clarets in the past but it was Reading who snapped him up originally signing him from Cork City in June 2005.
He was a prolific scorer for the Royals scoring 55 times in 154 appearances ( a goal every 2-3 matches)
The 26 year old Republic of Ireland international striker joined Wolves in June 2009 signing a four year deal for an undisclosed fee thought to be in the region of £6.5 million.
Burnley Team News:
Clarets fans can expect an unchanged side on Sunday. There is no news of any further injuries and we have no suspensions so it is likely to be the same eighteen that face Wolves after the well-earned draw against Arsenal on Wednesday night.
Player to watch: Andre Bikey
Bikey really needs to put in a good performance in this match if he is to retain his place. He has looked error prone and confused in recent games and doesn`t seem quite sure whether he is a back four player or a midfielder at times. He got in all sorts of problems leading up to Arsenal`s opening goal in midweek with Fabregas pouncing and dispossessing the Cameroon international before shooting past Jensen.
If Bikey doesn`t improve, I think Coyle should rest him and maybe consider starting with 4-4-2 with perhaps Nugent partnering Fletcher up front.
Back to the Future
Molineux until recent times truly was a bogey ground for the Clarets with Wolves having won 40 of the 60 clashes on home soil over our joint history. The Clarets have managed just 11 wins and 9 draws at Molineux; the last of these wins was in December 2007 when we beat Wolves 3-2 in a Championship league game. Wolves beat us 2-0 at Molineux in November 2008 although we did beat them 1-0 at Turf Moor in a crucial game in February last season when we were attempting to reach the play-off spots. Both of the clubs of course achieved promotion to the top flight in the end and we now face Wolves in the Premier League for the first time.
The last time we played Wolves in the top flight was in the 1975-76 season. This was the season of course that we were relegated, never to return for another 33 years. We will also want to forget our clashes against the men in Old Gold that season too! We got thumped 5-1 at Turf Moor in November 1975 with Hankin getting our solitary goal. Wolves had scored in the first minute and were 3-0 up before we scored after 48 minutes. It didn`t get much better at Molineux, this time under new manager, Joe Brown who had replaced Jimmy Adamson we lost 3-2 in February 1976. Fletcher and Hankin again got on the score sheet. In a remarkable co-incidence both teams were relegated that season with Wolves third from bottom one place and two points above the Clarets. Wolves were to return to the top flight the next season though as Champions with the Claret struggling in 16th place. Nevertheless both clubs now face each other for the first time in the Premier League having been relegated together back in 1976 and now promoted together last season.
These two clubs do have an interesting almost parallel shared history. Twenty two years ago we were both doing battle in the old fourth division. Wolves went on to claim the title that year and also beat Burnley in the Football League Trophy final, in front of nearly 81,000 supporters at Wembley.
We have to make sure we stop letting them get the upper hand on Sunday
Bradford-born referee, Martin Atkinson who is now based in Leeds takes charge of this one. Last season he averaged just over 3 yellow cards per match and handed out a total of 11 red cards.
I have been disgusted by Mick McCarthy`s actions this past week, this is not how football should be played and it`s a slap in the face to the loyal Wolves fans who paid a fortune to go and watch a reserve team at Old Trafford. For that very reason there is now an extra incentive to go and beat them at Molineux on Sunday and get our first away win of the season. McCarthy`s tactics have to be shown up for what they are ie plain wrong!
Mick McCarthy’s side have scored just 15 times in the league this season, which is the lowest shared jointly with Stoke and Portsmouth so we need to take advantage of that statistic.
We will surely win if we play like we did against Manchester City and indeed Pompey on the road providing we take our chances and make any pressure count. The Clarets will be buoyed up by their fantastic performance against Arsenal at home in midweek and we need to keep that momentum going. I think we will shade this match 1-0 or 2-1.
It`s a Boxing Day treat at Turf Moor with Bolton Wanderers the visitors (Note: It`s a 2:0 pm Kick-Off). This is another massive six-pointer with struggling Bolton fourth from bottom on the same number of points as Wolves and three behind the Clarets.