Four matches to go as the Clarets continue to plot the ‘Great Escape` after a stunning 4-1 thumping of fellow strugglers, Hull City at the KC Stadium last Saturday. That was of course our first away win and first double of the season! We still have it all to do though to avoid the drop with the Clarets third from bottom and still four points behind West Ham in 17th spot and five points behind Bolton & Wigan. Burnley are looking for three wins from their last four games to be confident of survival and what a tall order that will be with Sunderland next up this Saturday at the Stadium of Light followed by Liverpool at home and Birmingham away. Will our fate have been decided by the time we play our last game of the season against Spurs at Turf Moor or will our survival hopes go down to the wire? Nobody can be sure one way or the other but on paper, Sunderland away could be our best chance of picking up some points and the Clarets will be desperate for their second away win and second double of the season. Although the Black Cats have an impressive home record this season they have been inconsistent and the Clarets will be hoping they have one of their off days and take their eye off the ball allowing the lads to sneak in and nick the points.
Hopefully the lads` confidence will be high after getting the hoodoo of no wins away all season off their backs and Clarets fans will simply have to hope we show the same passion and determination that we did against the Tigers last week. Tigers in theory have more bite than little Black Cats so here is hoping! Up the Clarets!
Predicted Team Sheet
Brian Laws is expected to show faith in the eighteen that travelled to Hull City last week after they came away with that memorable 4-1 victory and first away win of the season.
We can probably expect the same starting eleven as well and the predicted line up would be as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Cort, Fox, Alexander, Elliott, Cork, Paterson, Nugent, Fletcher,
Subs: Weaver, Carlisle, Caldwell, Bikey, Blake, Eagles, Thompson
Sunderland Team News:
Steve Bruce’s main concern is midfielder Lee Cattermole who is a doubt for this clash. The 22-year-old damaged a calf in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at West Ham and failed to turn up to training this week due to the injury.
The highly-rated defender, John Mensah who has been sidelined with injury since early March though could be ready for a return on Saturday
Captain, Lorik Cana however is struggling with a groin problem.
One player who won`t feature is winger Andy Reid who will be out for rest of season with a hamstring injury.
Player to watch: Darren Bent
Darren Bent has scored 22 goals so far this season in the Premier League including one of course against Burnley in the earlier clash at Turf Moor last September. He is the third highest goal scorer in the top flight this season to date behind only Rooney and Drogba.
The 26 year old England striker has never looked back since moving from Spurs to Sunderland in August last year for an initial fee of £10 million plus add-ons. He promptly scored in his debut in the Black Cats 1-0 victory over Bolton at the Reebok on the opening day of the season. Curiously enough that is the only away win the Black Cats have enjoyed all season but Bent has been knocking them in since both home and away. The Clarets defence will certainly have their hands full trying to contain the lively striker but they will certainly need to if we are to stand any chance of coming away with some points.
Burnley Team News:
The Clarets have no new injury worries or suspensions with only Chris McCann still definitely sidelined whilst he recovers from torn cartilage surgery. Jordan though remains doubtful with a knee injury.
Brian Laws is expected to name an unchanged team against Sunderland.
Player to watch: Jack Cork
The midfielder from Chelsea has put in some memorable performances since arriving in February on loan until the end of the season. He was particularly influential in the engine room last week at the KC Stadium and Brian Laws will be looking for more of the same as the Clarets plot their second away win and second double of the season.
Back to the Future
Our record against Sunderland over the years has not been a good one.
Until this season we had played them sixteen times since 1977 in various cup competitions and lower league battles and had only won once, drawing 7 and losing 8.
The last time we played them was of course at Turf Moor this season and we achieved a good 3-1 victory this time after a memorable brace from substitute, David Nugent. The game was played last September in front of a crowd of 20,196 fans. In the first-half Darren Bent had beaten the offside trap after 39 minutes to equalise after Alexander had scored from the spot on 13 minutes. The Clarets had been under the cosh to be honest in the first 45 minutes and were lucky to go in 1-1 at half-time. The second half seemed to be going the same way with Sunderland looking the most likely to take the lead. Paterson was doing a lot of running around but getting few chances to threaten the goal and Fletcher playing a wider role was also ineffective and not getting enough service. All that changed when first Nugent replaced Pato on 57 minutes followed a few minutes later with Eagles coming on to replace Fletcher. The game instantly livened up for the Clarets and we soon took the lead again when a glorious header by Nugent flew into the net with 67 minutes played. . In the 86th minute, a pass by Tyrone Mears found Nugent under pressure with two defenders on his back. He turned both of them sending them the wrong way to let rip with a sweet left-footed shot that sailed into the top corner of the net to secure a 3-1 victory for the Clarets. It was not a good day for Chris McCann though. He was injured in the 28th minute following a strong tackle by Michael Turner and limped off towards the tunnel. Clarets fans would later find out he had damaged both his cruciate and medial ligaments and would face a long lay-off and could possibly be out for the rest of the season. In the end he would make a remarkable recovery and be back in action in January before cruelly picking up another but unrelated knee injury after just two matches. That would prove to be a slightly torn cartilage and would sideline him again.
Our last game at the Stadium of Light was a five goal thriller with the Clarets sadly on the end of a 3-2 defeat. We played them in the Championship during their 2006-07 promotion season in the penultimate game of that season and nearly came away with three points. Although going one goal behind after 14 minutes, a penalty by Gray after 39 minutes and a stunning goal by Elliott from distance to make it 2-1 gave Clarets fans hope. It wasn`t to be though and the Black Cats came back strongly converting a penalty of their own after 54 minutes and then securing victory 3-2 with a Carlos Edwards goal after 80 minutes.
The last time the Clarets were in the top flight (Division 1) back in the 1975-76 season, Sunderland were in Division 2 and about to be crowned Champions at the end of that season. As the Black Cats were promoted, Burnley were relegated but Sunderland`s fortune was not to last and they found themselves back in the second division at the end of 1976-77 after finishing third from bottom.
A familiar face for the Clarets will referee this clash with Howard Webb in charge. This will be the fourth time the Rotherham referee will have been in charge of a Clarets game this season. He was the referee in our home games against Stoke and Villa and the clash away to Everton at Goodison Park.
Sunderland will be a different kettle of fish to Hull City and will be far more difficult to beat with the Black Cats having lost only two of their home games all season. The Clarets will be hoping that Sunderland have one eye on the summer holidays with their season effectively over. They are effectively safe, if not mathematically safe in 13th spot on 38 points; 11 points clear of the drop zone. They are heading for a midtable finish with nothing to play for but pride and Burnley will be hoping to take advantage of any complacency by the Black Cats. Although Sunderland have only lost two games all season at the Stadium of Light they have drawn another seven games and I suspect we could be about to make it eight. They have drawn against other strugglers in the relegation zone at home including West Ham, Portsmouth and Wigan but at the same time have tonked Bolton (4-0), Hull City (4-1) and Wolves (5-2). This result could depend on which of our teams turns-up and we have to hope it`s the one that played so well against Hull and not the one that looked so shaky in the first 15 minutes of that match. If Sunderland get the lead early on they will probably punish us more than Hull City did last week.
I will go with a 1-1 draw. A point might sadly not be enough to avoid the drop but it would be hard -earned if we achieved it.
Three games remain after Sunderland and the 3-2-1 Countdown begins with Liverpool the visitors to Turf Moor in a rearranged game on Sunday 25th April (3pm Kick-Off). The game was put back a day due to Liverpool`s exploits in Europe with their first leg of the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid on Thursday 22nd April. Hopefully the result at Sunderland will have gone our way with our survival hopes still very much alive but this will be a tough, tough game with Liverpool still eyeing a fourth place finish.