Date: 24th April 2011 at 4:56pm
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The Clarets take on Portsmouth at Turf Moor on Easter Monday (3pm Kick-Off) with their play-offs hopes still very much alive after three consecutive wins.

The Preamble

Burnley go into the Easter Monday clash at Turf Moor against mid-table Portsmouth knowing that a win will be vital if they are to keep their play-offs dreams alive. It now looks like we are in a three-horse race with Nottingham Forest and Leeds United to secure that final sixth place play-offs spot with just two games to play for all three clubs after the Easter Monday fixtures.

All three clubs at the moment have 66 points with only goal-difference separating them. We have the advantage tomorrow being the only one of the three playing on home soil. It is crucial we take advantage and try and put some clear blue water between ourselves and the other two play-offs rivals.

We are playing well and on a roll with three consecutive wins now in the Championship following that bad spell in March and early April. Burnley simply have to keep the momentum going. The last three performances especially against Middlesbrough and Derby County have been stunning. If we continue to play like that on Easter Monday, Portsmouth will be no match for us.

Steve Cotterill`s side`s season is effectively over with nothing to play for other than pride. They are firmly in mid-table in 14th spot on 56 points with no chance of reaching the play-offs whilst also not being in any danger of relegation. Steve Cotterill though may feel he has something to prove after making his return to Turf Moor for the first time since leaving by mutual consent in November 2007.

The Clarets on the other hand will be looking for their 6th double of the season after beating Pompey 2-1 at Fratton Park in Eddie Howe`s second game in charge back in January.

On paper, we should get that victory. Pompey have only won one of their last six games although on the road they have won three of their last six so we still need to be on our guard.

Come on you Clarets, now is the time to turn the screw and go for broke.

Burnley Team News:

Dean Marney looks unlikely to make a return after missing the last game with a recurrence of the medial ligament injury that plagued him earlier in the season just before the International break. Chris McCann of course made a remarkable comeback replacing Marney in midfield and looks set to retain his place after playing well against the Rams and scoring our final goal in the 4-2 victory. Marvin Bartley too will be available after completing his three-match ban following his sending off in the recent defeat away to Forest.

Charlie Austin is out for the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder and Martin Paterson (thigh) also seems to be still out of contention and now looks unlikely to make a comeback before the end of the season.

Player to watch: Chris McCann

I suspect Chris McCann will retain his place on Monday come-what-may after such an impressive comeback against Derby at the weekend. It will certainly be a tonic for all Clarets fans to see McCann play his first match at Turf Moor in many a month. His last home game for the first team was against Sunderland in the Premier League back in September 2009. A Fateful day of course when he picked up a serious cruciate ligament injury that ultimately required corrective surgery! He made a brief appearance again later that season playing against Reading in the FA Cup at the Madejski followed by the clash against Owen Coyle`s Bolton at the Reebok in January 2010. It was clear though that things were not right and so began a long spell out of the game before returning and scoring in our 4-2 victory over Derby at Pride Park on Saturday.

Portsmouth Team News:

Striker, Dave Kitson suffered a suspected fractured rib in Saturday’s goalless draw with Swansea and he looks unlikely to feature at Turf Moor.

Pompey defender Ritchie De Laet could also be added to the long list of injured after limping off in the Swansea clash with a calf strain.

Midfielders, Liam Lawrence (calf) and Nadir Ciftci (ankle) also remain sidelined.

The only good news for Cotts is that winger David Cotterill is available again but the options are running out for Cotterill on the bench. Due to Pompey`s financial predicament and small squad they could only put our four substitutes in their last game and this time even one of those could miss out due to a rule that only allows clubs to name six loan players on the team sheets. On-loan defender, Ibrahima Sonko could therefore also miss out because of the ruling.

Player to watch: David Nugent

It will be good to see Nugent make a return to Turf Moor but not good to see him score for Pompey! We will have to keep the cheeky chappy quiet and make sure he doesn`t get a chance to wreck our play-offs hopes.

Nugent is Pompey`s leading goal-scorer this season with 12 goals to his credit, 11 in the Championship.

Team & Tactics

There is no news of any fresh injury concerns for Eddie Howe so he must be tempted to name an unchanged eighteen following the sensational win at Pride Park on Saturday.

Marvin Bartley is available though so he could be named on the bench if Howe prefers to have more midfield options.

I suspect a line-up something like this in 4-4-2 formation:

Jensen, Mears, Duff, Bikey, Fox, Elliott, Cork, McCann, Eagles, Iwelumo, Rodriguez

Substitutes: Grant, Carlisle, Edgar or Bartley, Alexander, Wallace, Thompson, Delfouneso

Ref Watch:

East Yorkshire referee, Carl Boyeson is in charge of this match. Boyeson started refereeing on the Hull Sunday League in 1992 and was promoted via the Northern Premier league to the National List of assistant referees in 1996. He spent two seasons on the SG list until reaching the National List of referees in 2002.

Boyeson has featured in 27 games this season handing out 4 red and 70 yellow cards. This will be his first game involving the Clarets this season.

Match Prediction:

There is no doubt this will be a nervy, bum-squeaky match for all Clarets fans. It is a game though that is vital to win in order to maintain our play-offs hopes and with a bit of luck put some distance between ourselves and both Forest and Leeds.

These two rivals for the sixth play-offs spot both face tricky away games on Easter Monday and could drop points.

We have to hope the nerves do not get the better of Eddie Howe`s men and that we can continue to play like we have in the last three games and keep up the momentum.

We never tend to win convincingly when faced with these pressure games but I think we still have enough in the locker to beat a Pompey side who have nothing to play for but pride. 2-0 Clarets and bring on Leeds!

Next Match

We face a trip to Elland Road on Saturday 30th April (Kick-Off 12:45pm) knowing that only a win against play-offs rivals Leeds United could be enough to keep our dreams alive. I would feel a lot happier going into this game three points clear of our Yorkshire rivals after the Easter Monday games but we can only hope.