Date: 17th October 2008 at 5:58pm
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The Clarets at long last are back in action this Saturday after the two-week International break and face League leaders Birmingham at Turf Moor.

Hopefully the lads will come back refreshed after a lacklustre performance away to Reading in their last match. That 3-1 defeat brought to an end our run which had previously seen the Clarets go nine games without loss.

We also dropped five places from fourth to ninth place after the defeat at the Madejski Stadium although on 15 points we have the same number of points as a whole host of teams including 5th and 6th placed teams, Plymouth and Coventry respectively. Only goal difference therefore has kept us out of a Top Six play-offs spot.

Owen Coyle will be keen to get back to winning ways but certainly his team will face the toughest challenge possible with the high-flying Blues the visitors.

Coyle got some praise from his former gaffer and current boss at Birmingham in midweek

‘I signed Owen for Motherwell and he’s a great lad, a fantastic, infectious enthusiast, said Alex McLeish

‘Not only did he score vital goals for me but he was a spirited guy in the dressing room, always encouraging players, and I imagine he’ll be like that as a manager.’

Predicted Team Sheet

Only Martin Paterson from the current squad available saw some International action over the last two weeks, coming on from the bench for just 18 minutes of play in Northern Ireland`s emphatic 4-0 victory over Minnows, San Marino.

Bes Berisha currently on loan to Rosenberg also managed to come on from the bench for Albania and Alex MacDonald is in Hungary at the moment with the Scotland Under 19 squad for their European Championship Qualifying Round tournament. He will not only miss our game against Birmingham City but also Coventry City and Charlton Athletic

Graham Alexander had to be content with bench warming for Scotland`s sole game against Norway last Saturday.

So no injury concerns from the International matches, but Owen Coyle does have a headache in selecting the back four.

Stephen Jordan picked up a second-yellow and was sent off against Reading and will miss out against Birmingham due to his one match ban.

Michael Duff also picked up an injury in the match against the Royals trying to deny Stephen Hunt Reading`s second goal. He had to be substituted and the injury to his side has prevented him training this week

The situation is made worse by the fact that Clarke Carlisle carried a back problem throughout the Reading game and was another player this week, along with Duff and midfielder Alan Mahon unable to train. Mahon picked up a strain in the behind-closed-doors draw with Blackpool at Gawthorpe last week and looks to be definitely out of contention.

The good news is that Christian Kalvenes will be available but if neither Duff nor Carlisle makes it, we have a central defender problem in terms of who would partner Caldwell.

Chris McCann has played in that position but he is arguably our best midfielder at the moment and Coyle doesn`t sound too keen to play him in the back four:

“Chris McCann has played centre back in the past, but I’m a great believer of players playing in their best positions, and he’s a big player for us in midfield.

‘Sometimes needs must, but it’s not something we’re looking at just now.’

Remco Van der Schaaf and Kevin McDonald also played in a midweek reserve match against Blackpool and could come into contention, giving Owen Coyle more options. However McDonald did pick up another knock

‘Kevin McDonald played 45 minutes for the reserves and got a little bang, and we felt it would be folly to carry on, in case we aggravated it, said Coyle

‘He’s going to join in training today (Thursday), and we’ll look at it.

The latest news however suggests he could feature in this match after recovering from his ankle injury.

Assuming the worse case scenario with Duff, Carlisle and Mahon unable to play, it might be an idea to move Alexander back to right back with Remco van Der Schaaf coming in as the holding midfielder and no matter how you look at it, Chris McCann may well have to play in the back four. This is one situation where we really could have done with the services of loan Russell Anderson, cruelly lost for the whole season after picking up cruciate ligament damage.

Not a good time to have to radically change the side when facing the league leaders but sometimes needs must.

Oh well, here is one possibility but hopefully at least one of the four injured players might make it:

Jensen, Alexander, Caldwell, McCann, Kalvenes, Van der Schaaf, Elliott, Gudjonsson, Eagles, Paterson, Thompson

Subs: Penny, Rodriguez, Blake, McDonald, Akinbiyi

Burnley Team News:

Jordan is sitting out a one match ban with Mahon and Duff looking doubtful due to injury. Clarke Carlisle also missed training this week but Kalvenes, McDonald and Van der Schaaf could return.

Chris Eagles must surely start in this match and we could be a centre back down if Carlisle doesn`t make it with possibly only Chris McCann an option in the back four with Alexander, Caldwell and Kalvenes.

Player to watch: Steve Thompson

Really is time to see Thompson`s first goal for the Clarets

Birmingham City Team News:

Blues defender Radhi Jaidi will not feature after suffering a thigh injury while playing for Tunisia in the recent International break. Martin Taylor looks set to replace him

Stephen Kelly (thigh injury) and Damien Johnson (back injury) appear to be the only other absentees.

Player to watch: Kevin Phillips

Always the danger man and always seems to score against the Clarets Phillips signed a two year contract with the Blues in July this year after rejecting a new contract with former club, West Brom.

Last Time We Met

You have to go back to Season 2006/7 for the last time the Clarets played Birmingham. This was Brum`s promotion season to the Premier League and we lost our home game against them 2-1 in November 2006 before pulling off a surprise 1-0 victory at St Andrews in April 2007. This victory came during our best spell of the season after going 19 games without a win.

Ref Watch:

Lee Probert (Wiltshire)

Match Prediction:

We can do it but it won`t be easy!

1-0 Clarets

Next Match

Coventry at the Ricoh Arena on Tuesday night with a 7:45pm KO (21st October) followed by another away trip on Saturday 25th October to face Charlton Athletic (3pm KO)