The Clarets play their final and vital match of the 2008/9 fixture list against Bristol City at Turf Moor this Sunday needing a win to ensure they will be in the play-offs for the first time since being promoted to the Championship in May 2000.
Setting the Scene
The last match in the 2008/9 fixture list against the Robins at Turf Moor this Sunday is quite simply the most important game the Clarets have played since being promoted to the Championship nearly nine years ago. We are now faced with two scenarios of either success or failure on this D-Day of a clash with our play-off chances going down to the wire.
Get this right and the ‘D` will be the Dream come true with a chance to invade Wembley via the play-off semi finals. Get it wrong and the ‘D` will turn to disaster, with the Clarets pipped to the post by local rivals Preston. The latter just doesn`t bear thinking about, finishing in 7th place for the third time in this league and to that mob would simply sour one of our best seasons for many a year and could have a devastating effect on our morale and chances next season.
One thing is certain, the importance of this match has been matched by the ticket sales with a sell-out crowd of Clarets guaranteed to be cheering on the lads this Sunday in what is bound to be a tense and nervy time.
The situation is complicated with only one team in the Championship currently guaranteed automatic promotion. Wolves are already Champions leaving six clubs to fight it out for the remaining automatic promotion place and play-off spots.
Here are the relevant fixtures to consider:
Burnley v Bristol City, 13:15
Crystal Palace v Sheff Utd, 13:15
Preston v QPR, 13:15
Reading v Birmingham, 13:15
Sheff Wed v Cardiff, 13:15
Three clubs still have a chance of that second automatic promotion spot. Birmingham (80 points) have to beat fellow challengers Reading (77 points) in their game away to the Royals in order to keep Sheffield United (79 points) at bay.
The two that fail will be in the 3rd and 4th spots meaning that three clubs are fighting for the two remaining play-off spots. Cardiff are currently in 5th spot with 74 points and on a bad run of form. If they fail to beat the Owls away, then both Burnley (6th with 73 points) and Preston (7th with 71 points) could overtake them if they win their home games.
Quite simply the Clarets have to get three points if they are to be certain of a play-offs spot. Our fate is in our own hands; draw or lose and we will be sweating and hoping results elsewhere go our way.
The highest we can finish in fifth and the lowest, a disastrous seventh!
At least we have the advantage of playing a team who have nothing to play for but pride. Bristol City were contenders for a play-off spot earlier in the season but their chances of finishing in the top six died a few weeks back. They are currently in 10th spot on 61 points. The Robins have not won in their last seven matches picking up four draws and losing three with all their defeats coming on the road.
Quite frankly in my opinion if we can`t rise to the occasion and secure three points in this clash then maybe we shouldn`t be in the play-offs anyway. That is perhaps heartless but nonetheless true.
There has currently been no official announcement on injury concerns just rumours. Steven Thompson might be available for selection assuming he has now fully recovered from an ankle ligament injury that has kept him sidelined since the home game against Forest back in March. Russell Anderson could also be close to return after training with the lads recently. The on loan defender from Sunderland has been out virtually the whole season with cruciate ligament damage. It is rumoured that he could make the bench on Sunday. I am not convinced about any of these rumours and I would suggest that assuming there are no further injury concerns Coyle would select the same sixteen for the third game running. Chris Eagles was suffering from an illness in our last game away to the Saints and had to be replaced at half-time. Hopefully he has now recovered.
My team selection would be as follows:
Jensen, Williams, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Alexander, Eagles, McCann, Elliott, Blake, Paterson
Subs: Penny, Duff, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Rodriguez
Don`t forget this match has an early kick off as well as being played on a Sunday! Turf Moor will be bum squeaky from 1:15 pm! Come on You Clarets!
Burnley Team News:
No official team news is yet in although it is rumoured that Steven Thompson could be close to a recall. Russell Anderson is also thought to be near to returning after training recently. The defender has been out for effectively the whole season after a cruciate ligament injury.
Player to watch: Robbie Blake
Robbie picked up a number of Player of the Year awards at the Supporters Clubs Awards evening in midweek along with Brian Jensen and Graham Alexander. Blake with his calmness and experience will be key to ensuring victory on Sunday so let`s hope we see plenty of that Robbie magic!
Bristol City Team News:
Dele Adebola looks set to leave the Robins in the close season after turning down a new one year contract. The 34-year-old has scored 10 goals in the Championship this season. However Robins gaffer, Gary Johnson has confirmed he will still play against the Clarets.
One player that is definitely out is Lee Trundle. The Robins striker was stretchered off during the first-half of Tuesday’s reserve match against Yeovil. He was having a scan in midweek on his ankle and Johnson has now said:
‘There is no break but he will be out for two or three weeks so it will just stop him from playing football on his holidays.
Trundle joins a long-list of injured players. The injury list includes Louis Carey, Brian Wilson, James Wilson and Christian Ribeiro while Chris Weale, David Noble, Jennison Myrie-Williams, Frankie Artus and John Akinde are out on loan.
Right-back and former Clarets loan Bradley Orr will be back though after a two-game suspension.
Clarets fans will be hoping that Johnson might be tempted to blood some of his younger players in a game where they have only pride to play for.
Player to watch: Michael McIndoe
The 29 year old Scot signed from Wolves for an undisclosed fee in July 2007 being given a three year contract. He is a useful midfielder who has a habit of scoring. He has six goals so far to his name in the Championship this season and is the Robins third leading goal scorer behind Nicky Maynard and Dele Adebola.
Last Time We Met
The Clarets defeated the Robins 2-1 at Ashton Gate this season and will be looking for the double (now there`s an understatement!). Goals by Paterson and Thompson were enough to secure all three points back in December last year.
The Robins though defeated the Clarets 1-0 at Turf Moor last season in December 2007 during our traditional loss of form over the Christmas period.
Clive W Oliver (Northumberland)
The Clarets simply have to hold their nerve and play like we know they can. This is effectively a cup final match and we have to imagine Bristol City are a Premier League club (Difficult I know!). If we do that I think this could be an easy 3-1 victory. Come on you Clarets; do not let the fans down! Please don`t be leading just 1-0 as the fourth official announces five minutes of added time to play. I don`t think my nerves will hold out!
Well let`s be positive, the next match will be the first leg of the Play-offs semi final but until we know the results of the matches on Sunday, we will not know if we will finish 6th and play the 3rd place team or 5th and play the 4th placed team.
The dates for the Championship play-offs are as follows:
1st Leg Fri 8th May 6 v 3 19.45
Sat 9th May 5 v 4 17.20
2nd Leg Mon 11th May 3 v 6 19.45
Tues 12th May 4 v 5 19.45