Burnley are seeking their fourth consecutive home win since returning to the top flight when they play Birmingham at Turf Moor this Saturday. This will be our first encounter with a fellow promoted club from last season`s Championship and in many ways it is vital that we get three points against a side likely to be joining us in the pack hoping to avoid the drop by the end of the season. October is an important month for the Clarets with Birmingham the first of three home games this month against sides expected to finish in the bottom third of the table (with Wigan and Hull to follow). Nine points from those games would see confidence high and we have not even mentioned our big away clash with Blackburn in the same month.
Speaking of Blackburn if we do beat Brum then we will have set up a new record. The Clarets equalled Blackburn Rovers record of 1992 when they defeated Sunderland in their last home match adding to the earlier home wins against Manchester United and Everton. No promoted side to the Premier League had won their first three home games since Rovers did so in their first season back in the top flight in 1992-3, the inaugural season of the Premiership. Rovers beat Arsenal, Manchester City and Nottingham Forest in their first three home games before going down to Everton 3-2 at Ewood Park. So there is now added incentive for the lads to get three points this Saturday
Predicted Team Sheet
The Clarets have had a spate of bad luck recently with three key players now out with injuries for 2-3 months. Jay Rodriguez was the latest after fracturing his ankle in a reserve game against Hull City in midweek. This game at Accrington Stanley`s Crown Ground also saw Fernando Guerrero and Kevin McDonald pick up knocks and we await news of their progress.
The grim news concerning Jay Rod adds to Owen Coyle`s woes. The gaffer has also recently lost Chris McCann (Medial Ligament injury) and Martin Paterson (torn cartilage) both of whom now face up to three months being sidelined.
Steven Caldwell though has now recovered fully from his groin injury and made the bench for last Saturday`s nightmare game at White Hart Lane. He could be in contention for a start after some recent indifferent performances from both centre backs, Clarke Carlisle and in particular, Andre Bikey. The side, particularly away, may well have missed Caldwell`s leadership skills and it will be interesting to see if Coyle will make any changes to the back four with Michael Duff also now fully fit and chomping at the bit for a starting eleven place.
Owen Coyle is not one to wring the changes in the side unless forced to do so because of injuries and suspensions. Players really have to play consistently badly over a run of matches before Coyle it seems is tempted to change things round. Chris Eagles is one player who I think is now ready for a starting eleven place but I suspect once more he will have to be content with a place on the bench.
With both Martin Paterson and Jay Rodriguez now out for three months with injury, the choice of strikers is becoming less of a difficult decision for Coyle. I suspect that Coyle will start both David Nugent and Steven Fletcher for the Brum clash and have Steven Thompson ready to come on from the bench. Thommo is another one struggling to get a starting eleven place this season although he may have caught the eye following his brace in midweek against Hull Reserves in the Clarets 2-1 win.
I will go with this side playing 4-1-3-2:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Elliott, Gudjonsson, Blake, Fletcher, Nugent
Subs: Penny, Bikey, Duff (or Kalvenes), McDonald (if Fit), Eagles, Guerrero (if fit), Thompson
Burnley Team News:
Rodriguez (fractured ankle), Paterson (torn cartilage) and Chris McCann (medial ligament) are all sidelined for up to three months.
News is awaited on the injuries to Kevin McDonald and Fernando Guerrero; both players having picked up knocks in the midweek reserve match against Hull City. Guerrero looks the most doubtful with an hamstring problem.
Player to watch: Steven Fletcher
Fletcher thought he got his first Clarets league goal on the board at White Hart Lane last Saturday before it was scratched-off for a very dubious offside. A goal for him against Brum could be just the tonic he needs although I hope Coyle plays him more in the centre as a partner for Nugent than having him play out wide.
Birmingham City Team News:
Striker, Christian Benitez is unlikely to return home from Ecuador in time for this clash after flying out on compassionate grounds to be with his father who was injured in a road accident. Garry O’Connor is likely to come in up front as the lone striker with Kevin Phillips on the bench.
Birmingham also currently have eight players who are injured. Blues boss Alex McLeish is optimistic that Stuart Parnaby, Franck Queudrue and James McFadden will be ready for action but Cameron Jerome will still be sidelined with an ankle injury and is expected to return after the International break.
Player to watch: Kevin Phillips
The 36 year old striker is no longer Brum`s first choice to lead the attack and has spent most of the season on the bench. It is thought that once more he will be named as a substitute on Saturday despite Benitez being absent due to compassionate leave. Scottish international, Garry O`Conner is expected to lead the attack but if as we hope we can stop them from scoring, McLeish could be tempted to bring on Philips who has always tended to be a thorn in our side. He came on in their last game at home to Bolton in the 76th minute and thought he had rescued a point for the Blues scoring in the 84th minute before Bolton took the lead again two minutes later finally winning the game 2-1.
Back to the Future
The Clarets last beat Birmingham in a league game at Turf Moor back in April 1976. This indeed would be our last home game that we would win in the top flight for another 33 years after being relegated that season. Birmingham would escape the drop by the skin of their teeth after finishing fourth from bottom. The game at Turf Moor was played on the Saturday 10th April in front of 13,679 fans with the Clarets now managed by Joe Brown who had replaced Jimmy Adamson earlier in the season. Birmingham back then were a struggling side tending to finish in the bottom half of the table. Their gaffer was Willie Bell; he too had just taken over following the departure of Freddie Goodwin in September 1975. Some of the Birmingham players you might recall from that era included Kenny Burns, Trevor Francis, Joe Gallagher (later to have a spell with the Clarets in the 80s),Howard Kendall, Dave Latchford and Peter Withe.
The Clarets team that day lined up as follows:
Peyton, Scott, Pashley, Noble, Thomson, Rodaway, Morris, Flynn, Hankin, Fletcher, Summerbee
Sub: Ingham (Did Not Feature)
A goal by Hankin after 48 minutes would be enough to secure all two points in a 1-0 victory which went a little way to restoring some pride after going down 4-0 to them at St Andrews back in September 1975.
The last time we of course played Birmingham at Turf Moor was last season in the Championship back in October 2008, when despite out playing them for most of the match we had to be content with just a point in a 1-1 draw, McCann scoring in the 25th minute. It was a similar story in the return leg last February, the Clarets once more bossed the game but had to settle for a 1-1 draw despite a third minute goal from Paterson.
You got a Friend!(again). Yes, it`s Leicestershire referee, Kevin Friend
The Clarets home form at the moment is second to none and in complete contrast to our very poor away form where we are yet to score a goal let alone get a point. Those away defeats have admittedly been mainly against top class sides where we would not have been expected to get a result but having said that the bizarre sequence of defeats at Stoke (2-0), Chelsea (3-0), Liverpool (4-0) and last week, Spurs (5-0) have still been worrying and hard to take. They put increasing pressure on the team to always win at home and our first defeat at Turf Moor could have serious consequences for our confidence and survival chances.
We are currently in a respectable 11th place in the table with 9 points from 7 games just two points above Birmingham in 14th spot who have lost four of their last five games. We have to hope that ‘Fortress Turf Moor` once more does the business and Brum scuttle home singing the Blues without a point.
I think we can win this one although I am nervy and conscious of the fact that we will drop points eventually at home. I will go for a 3-1 win with Nugent adding to his goal tally
There will be an International break following the Birmingham match but we then return for one of the two biggest games this season when we travel to Ewood Park for the first of the big derby clashes. The game will be televised by Sky and will be played on Sunday 18th October with an early kick-off time of 1pm. No Claret will need reminding that you can only get to this match via the Deadwood Stage assuming of course you were lucky enough to get tickets in the first place.