Date: 6th January 2012 at 10:07am
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Burnley start their FA Cup campaign on Saturday with a tricky third-round tie away to Premier League new boys, Norwich City. This will be the first time we have played the Canaries in this competition.

The Pre-amble:

The Clarets take a break from the Championship on Saturday and begin their FA Cup campaign. Burnley fans will face a long hike to East Anglia with the third round tie pitching the Clarets against Premier League club, Norwich City at Carrow Road. Can Burnley knock the Canaries off their perch? It will certainly be a tough challenge to defeat the top flight new boys on their home ground.

Burnley will be hoping to get back to winning ways though after cruelly losing out to Leeds United in the Championship clash at Elland Road this week. Down to ten men following the controversial sending off of Kieran Trippier for a second bookable offence in the 29th minute, the Clarets still managed to take the lead only losing out to two late goals in the last few minutes of the game, The killer blow and the Leeds winner came just six seconds before the whistle went in the seventh minute of added time!

Before the heartbreak of that Leeds defeat, the Clarets had won six out of their last seven Championship games and managed to keep three consecutive clean sheets. The in-form team had been in danger of dropping into the bottom three with the club 2-0 down at Hull with fifteen minutes to play back in November but that remarkable comeback to win 3-2 at the KC Stadium gave the Clarets the impetus to go on a winning spree and by the end of December they were in 7th spot just three points off the play-offs. The Leeds defeat saw them drop back to 10th but they are still only 3 points behind the sixth placed club, Hull City.

Of course playing a Premier league side will be a different kettle of fish but we will need the spirit and determination from the impressive Championship run to return if we are to stand any chance of progressing to the fourth round. That means in effect forgetting about the Leeds result, consigning that to history and moving on.

Norwich City have impressed in the top flight after gaining promotion to the Premier League as runners-up last season. They are currently in 9th spot having picked up 25 points from 20 games. Paul Lambert`s men have won 2 and drawn 3 of their last six games and the Canaries home form is also quite impressive. Out of ten games so far at Carrow Road they have won four and drawn three with most of those points coming more recently. They are certainly in form on their home soil although over the festive period only managed to pick up one point from their two home games. They will however be buoyed up by their 2-1 win over QPR at Loftus Road in their last game on Bank Holiday Monday this week.

Norwich City Team News:

Paul Lambert has indicated he could consider squad rotation for this FA Cup game with survival in the Premier League clearly his top priority.

Lambert told the local paper, the Pink ‘un when asked about possible squad rotation:

‘It may well be because we’ve got a hard programme coming up after that as well, so I might do.’

Lambert then added:

‘The league is the main objective – but I’m not discounting the FA Cup. Whatever team I pick, as I always say, I think will go and win a game.

‘So I’m not going to disregard the FA Cup. There are too many people coming to watch us. We’ll try to win it, to go through, but I also know the league is vital to us.’

Norwich do not appear to have any fresh injury concerns following their last game at QPR.

Defender, Ritchie De Laet, on loan from Manchester United is still recovering from a back injury and could still be sidelined. Left back, Marc Tierney has missed out with a groin injury in the last few games and might be unavailable again for the Clarets clash.

Central defender, Elliott Ward is one of the Canaries long-term injured having missed the first half of the season with a knee injury. He is back in light training though and could be set for a return in the next few weeks. Centre-forward James Vaughan is also on course for a return from his knee problem in a few weeks. Korey Smith remains sidelined with an ankle injury. The Scottish midfielder has been out of action since September.

Player to watch: Grant Holt

30 year old striker, Grant Holt is Norwich`s joint leading goal-scorer along with former Millwall forward, Steve Morison. If both play on Saturday we could be in real trouble! Both have bagged 7 goals each this season.

Holt joined Norwich City from Shrewsbury Town in July 2009 for an undisclosed fee thought to be about £400,000. He signed a three-year contract with the option of a further year at Carrow Road and has since scored virtually one goal every two games. We will simply have to keep him in check or at least hope he sits the game out as part of Paul Lambert`s squad rotation.

Burnley Team News:

Kieran Trippier was controversially sent off after being shown two yellow cards in our last game away to Leeds United on Monday. He will miss the Canaries clash after picking up an automatic one match ban. Unless Wolves give Burnley permission to play loan striker, Sam Vokes in the FA Cup clash he too will be sidelined. Wolves` gaffer, Mick McCarthy might not be prepared to have one of his squad players cup tied should he return to Molineux from his loan spell which completes on the 15th January

Striker, Danny Ings is now back in full training following his steady recovery from a cartilage injury sustained in his second training session just days after joining the club last August. Eddie Howe has indicated that he might arrange a behind closed doors game soon to help his recovery and hasten his first team availability and debut. Brian Jensen is also thought to be available after returning to training recently following a groin strain.

News is also awaited regarding Michael Duff. He limped off with a hamstring injury in the Boxing Day game at home to Donny Rovers and has not featured since. It is thought his chances of playing are 50:50.

Martin Paterson, who was rested for the Leeds clash could also be back in contention.

Eddie Howe is not thought to have any new injury concerns following the defeat at Elland Road and with seven substitutes allowed may be tempted to give some of our young guns a place on the bench. It is hoped also that both Marvin Bartley and Keith Treacy will by now have recovered from illness after reporting in sick ahead of the Leeds game last Monday.

Player to watch: Ben Mee

With Burnley seeking to sign the Manchester City loan defender on a permanent deal in the January window all eyes will be on Ben Mee to see how well he fares against Premier League opposition on Saturday. He is a rock in our defence at the moment, whether he plays in his normal role in the centre of defence or stands-in at left back. He was man of the match against Leeds United in our last game so let`s hope he can continue to impress. He will certainly have his work cut out trying to keep Norwich`s twin strike pairing of Grant Holt and Steve Morison at bay should they both feature.

Team & Tactics

The first headache for Eddie Howe will be to decide who to play at right back in the absence of Kieran Trippier who will be missing due to a one-match suspension. David Edgar took over that role after Trippier was sent off against Leeds but that position of course is not his normal role and would mean changes in the centre of the defence. Nevertheless unless Michael Duff is fully fit, Howe has very few options at right back and you can`t see him risking a young gun in that position. Kevin Long has just returned from his loan spell at Accrington Stanley and is not cup-tied but you can`t see Howe throwing him in the deep end although he may be named as cover on the seven man bench.

I suspect we will start with the back four that finished the Leeds game unless Duff is available to play in the centre. That would mean our back four would be Edgar, Mee, Amougou (or Duff if fit) and Easton. Another option if Duff is fit, although unlikely would be to play him at right back with Mee and Edgar in the centre.

The next question relates to tactics and formation and the answers could well dictate how we then line-up. Away from home we tend to play more defensively with a five man midfield and one up front usually with a holding midfielder. I suspect against Premier League opposition that will be even more a probability.

Dean Marney has impressed in the holding midfield role of late and indeed in general in midfield. I expect him to start again as holding midfielder allowing both Marvin Bartley (hopefully recovered from his illness) and captain, Chris McCann to take up the centre midfield roles. So what about the wingers? Howe again has a number of options in this regard with three recognised wingers to choose from as well as a striker or two that can play out wide. Treacy will hopefully have recovered from his illness and be in contention for a place and if so Howe may be tempted to play Wallace and Treacy on the flanks with Stanislas on the bench. To be fair to Junior though, he was unlucky to be the player to lose out and be substituted against Leeds following the Trippier sending off and Howe might think it fairer to start him again against the Canaries.

If we do play 4-5-1 or more likely 4-1-4-1 the obvious next question will be who to select for our one striker up front. Assuming Sam Vokes is out of contention, Howe has the main option of Rodriguez, Austin or Paterson. Unless Rodriguez is preferred out wide, I can`t see him being dropped so would expect him to be our striker with Austin and Paterson on the bench.

With so many options, this once again is a very difficult line up to predict and on top of that we don`t know too whether Howe might also be considering some sort of squad rotation.

I will go with the following team selection though starting in a 4-1-4-1 formation:

Grant, Edgar, Mee, Amougou, Easton, Marney, Wallace, Bartley, McCann, Stanislas, Rodriguez

Subs: Stewart (or maybe Jensen?), Long, Treacy, MacDonald (or Hines), Austin, Paterson plus another young gun eg Hewitt

Ref Watch:

Premier League referee Mike Jones is in charge of this clash. In his 14 games in charge so far this season, he has handed out a remarkable 6 red cards and 62 yellows; that`s averaging nearly five cards per game! The Chester referee was also prolific in his last game involving the Clarets almost exactly a year ago. He was the man-in-the-middle for our Championship clash at home to QPR on the 15th January 2011. The score ended 0-0 but seven yellow cards were shown that day, five of them to Burnley players.

Match Prediction:

I do not think there will be any shocks in this game and that the Clarets will be making an early cup exit. Carrow Road is usually a difficult place to go to and win most times and the Canaries have usually had the upper hand against the Clarets in our Championship clashes over the years.

We did however thump them 4-1 at Carrow Road back in October 2006 and have drawn our last two games against them in the Championship on their home soil.

Now though they have moved up a notch and are doing well in the top flight, our task will be even more difficult. It will depend to some degree on how much squad rotation, Paul Lambert is considering but no matter what team Norwich put out, they could be too strong for the Clarets.

The Clarets though will play their hearts out and it could be a close run thing. I will go with Norwich shading it 2-1. I won`t be too concerned going out of the FA Cup although of course I would still like the team to win. Had we been mid-table or worse in the Championship with nothing really to play for in the second-half of the season, then a good cup run might have been all we had left but with the club just three points off the play-offs and promotion still on the table, I don`t think it would be too much of a heartache to go out of the FA cup competition at this stage. We have bigger fish to fry it seems and the more we can focus on promotion without distractions the better.

Next Match:

Back to Championship duty next with a tricky game away to high-flying Middlesbrough at the Riverside on Saturday 14th January (Kick-Off: 3pm)