The Clarets fresh from a break after their game at Portsmouth was postponed last Saturday due to the inclement weather now face Yorkshire rivals, Leeds United at Turf Moor.
Hopefully this time the weather will have improved enough to allow the game to go ahead but if there are still dangerous icy conditions around the ground, safety-first may again come into play. Let`s hope the game is not postponed and the ‘Red (otherwise known as Claret) Rose` secures victory!
Burnley were just one of many clubs last week in the Championship affected by the bad weather with a lot of the fixtures being cancelled due to the ice and snow. It looks like the cold spell could be with us until the New Year so there is every chance that more of our games could be postponed in the run up to Christmas. If the fixture goes ahead, Burnley face Leeds United in a ‘Wars of the Roses. Clash at Turf Moor this Saturday and they will be keen to keep their home form going and maintain their momentum for promotion.
The Clarets are currently 9th in the table but crucially are just three points off the play-offs spots with a game in hand over all the clubs above us except for League leaders QPR. The Rs are still 12 points clear of the Clarets but their game on Saturday against Hull City at the KC Stadium was also postponed. Second-placed Cardiff nearly lost to bottom club, Preston at home on Saturday leaving it late to equalise in injury time to earn just the one point in a 1-1 draw. That result kept them in second place on 37 points. Burnley are now eight points behind them but the Bluebirds look catchable if only we could go on a good run and string a few back-to-back wins together starting with Leeds at home this Saturday. It is a big ‘ask` though with our away form so dodgy and the Clarets still looking for their first away win of the season. But nevertheless that is what we will have to do to keep our automatic promotion dreams alive.
Leeds on the other hand are stringing back-to-back results together and having come from behind in the last ten minutes to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 on Saturday they can now bask in the glory of seven games on the trot without defeat. That last victory saw them jump above Burnley into sixth spot. A victory by the Clarets on Saturday though would see them go above the Yorkshire club on goal difference with a game in hand! Just shows how crucial a win on Saturday will be with virtually every match these days being a six-pointer.
Although it might stick in the throat of all rival fans (We All Hate Leeds..Er Mum and all that!), there is no getting away from the fact that Leeds are on a upward path having gained promotion from League 1 last season. Here is an example of another club where administration and the docking of points leading to relegation has done nothing but punish a club in a lower league for a few seasons before seeing them come back stronger. In their last seven games they have won four and drawn three. Their away record is also impressive putting ours to shame! In the ten matches they have played on the road so far this season, Leeds have only lost two of them having won four and drawn four. The Clarets will certainly need to be on their guard when they come to Turf Moor!
Burnley Team News:
The forced break due to the weather would at least have given longer time for our injured players to recover. Chris Eagles (back problem) and Martin Paterson (thigh strain) were both expected to be fit for the Pompey game in any case but another week`s rest has probably been to their advantage.
Our only injuries at the moment again appear to be Danny Fox (ankle ligament damage) who looks unlikely to return and of course long-term injured, Chris McCann (recovering from cruciate ligament surgery).
Player to watch: Chris Eagles
Believed to have now fully recovered from his back injury, Chris Eagles if selected could be key to our chances of winning this clash. Clarets fans had probably not realised he had been carrying a back injury for sometime before finally being rested against Derby County. He had looked a little off form in recent matches and it now looks like this injury could have been the reason why. He was in impressive form earlier in the season so let`s hope we see the best of Eagles again this Saturday.
Leeds United Team News:
Right back, Paul Connolly returns after sitting out a one-match suspension against Palace. He had picked up a fifth yellow in the previous game away to Reading.
Leeds United captain Richard Naylor though is out for up to six weeks after undergoing a knee operation last month.
The 33-year-old centre back has been sidelined for the last seven games due to the injury and the club decided surgery was the best option to remedy the problem.
Other than that it looks like manager, Simon Grayson has virtually a full squad to choose from and looks set to name a similar eighteen to the one named for the Palace game. We will however bring you any later team news announced by the club below this article.
Player to watch: Luciano Becchio
Becchio is Leeds` leading goal-scorer and he is currently in third spot in the Npower Championship Top Scorers table with ten goals to his credit so far this season. He seems to be scoring for fun and in his last game scored a brace in the last ten minutes to ensure Leeds secured a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace at Elland Road.
The 26 year old Argentinean striker came to Elland Road on trial in July 2008 with Leeds by then plying their trade in League 1. He impressed then manager, Gary McAllister so much in the pre-season games that he signed the former Boca Juniors youth player on a three-year deal later that month from Spain`s Segunda División B club Mérida UD. Since that time, the hot-shot striker has scored 40 goals in just over 100 appearances for the club, an average strike rate of about one goal in every two-three games.
Our defence will certainly need to keep this lad in check on Saturday!
Team & Tactics
Why don`t I just virtually repeat what I said in the match preview for the game that wasn`t against Portsmouth? OK I will since it is all still relevant!!
It sounds like both Chris Eagles and Martin Paterson will be available for selection and of course the big question also remains on formation. Will Laws now stick with the successful 4-4-2 formation or will he revert back to 4-5-1 at least for the start of this match?
Elliott looked so much more comfortable out on the wing against Derby County in our last match and if Eagles is fit, it would make sense to play him on the opposite flank with Wallace I am afraid drawing the short-straw going back on the bench.
Of the strikers, Jay Rodriguez has been the least impressive in recent games and he should perhaps be dropped back to the bench for a rest. If we are to play 4-4-2, I would select Iwelumo up front with Paterson (if fit). Thompson or the new boy, Guidetti would also be perfectly acceptable options to start this game in partnership with Big Chris but we shall see what Laws has in mind.
It is difficult to know Laws mind and which formation he will go with. He has toyed with 4-4-2 a lot in recent games but has not started that way preferring instead to keep with 4-5-1 using Iwelumo alone up front with Cork or Alexander in holding midfield. The team sheet is therefore quite difficult to predict with Laws having so many options and with virtually the whole squad to choose from (excepting Fox, McCann and the five squad players out on loan)
I will assume that at some point we will play 4-4-2 and if so this is our best 4-4-2 team selection in my opinion:
Grant, Mears, Bikey, Carlisle, Easton, Eagles, Cork, Marney, Elliott, Iwelumo, Paterson
Subs: Jensen, Edgar, Duff, Alexander, Wallace, Thompson, Guidetti
Time for the smile to be knocked off Leeds fans faces! 3-0 Clarets!
The build up to the dreaded Christmas period continues with a tricky away trip to Wales on Saturday 18th December to play second-placed Cardiff City (Kick-Off 3pm). What a time that would be to get our first away win of the season!