Burnley play third-place Crystal Palace at Turf Moor on Saturday looking to get back to winning ways after the FA Cup exit at Oakwell.
Inconsistent Burnley now face a tough challenge with Crystal Palace coming to town this Saturday. It is vital though just four points off the play-offs that we pull out all the stops to secure three points against the high-flying Eagles. The Clarets are currently in 12th spot just four points behind the sixth-placed club, Watford who also have a game in hand. You just never know these days what sort of performance the Clarets will produce. To say they blow ‘hot and cold` is an understatement. The latest contrast between the recent away win at Hillsborough on New Year`s Day and the pretty torrid performance away to Barnsley in the FA Cup last Saturday in the next game is there for all to see! One thing is clear, if we play anything like we did against the Tykes, despite a sterling performance by the defence after going down to ten men, we will lose against an impressive-looking Palace team. Ian Holloway`s men are currently in third-place and flying high. The Eagles are looking at automatic promotion and have 47 points from 26 games just two points behind second-placed Hull City and eleven more than the Clarets! Palace have lost just one game in the last six and that was away to league leaders Cardiff City although they have picked up far more draws than wins; four draws in fact to just one win! Their away form too is pretty indifferent losing two of the last six, winning just one against lowly Peterborough and drawing three. The Eagles are beatable and it all seems to be about containing two players namely leading goal-scorer, Glenn Murray and impressive in-demand winger, Wilfried Zaha. Murray is breathing down the neck of leading Championship goal scorer, Charlie Austin with 22 goals so far this season ( just one behind Austin) whilst Zaha is hot property and attracting a lot of interest from Premier League clubs. Manchester United are the firm favourites to win a two-club race with Arsenal for Zaha, with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur having cooled their interest. Palace fans are understood to feel that the current interest in Zaha is adversely affecting his performances for the Eagles (Oh good!) but it is unlikely he will have moved on before Saturday`s game.
Burnley Team News:
Brian Stock was controversially sent off in the FA Cup tie in the 36th minute against Barnsley at Oakwell last Saturday after picking up two yellow cards. The second was a blatant foul but the first appeared to be a case of mistaken identity following an off-the-ball incident involving Tykes striker, Marlon Harewood. The club though did not feel the decision was worth appealing so he now picks up an automatic one-match ban and will miss the Palace game.
The latest club news suggests that only Chris McCann on the injured list could make a return against Palace. He appears to have recovered from the hamstring problem that kept him sidelined against Barnsley at Oakwell last Saturday. Talking about his chances Dyche said :
“Macca has got a very good chance. He has trained today so we are hoping there is no reaction to that.”
It is not such good news though for the other two players suffering from hamstring injuries. Both Charlie Austin and Martin Paterson are doubtful with Dyche quoted as saying :
“Charlie is touch and go, probably not. Pato is touch and go, probably not.”
Left back Ben Mee also remains sidelined with a medial knee ligament injury. Jamaican winger Dane Richards could be in line for his league debut after arriving from Vancouver Whitecaps and making an appearance from the bench in the FA Cup game at Oakwell last Saturday.
Player to watch: Dane Richards
Many Clarets fans, who could not go to the Barnsley FA Cup game at Oakwell last Saturday, will be hoping to get their first glimpse of 29 year old Jamaican international, Dane Richards. He came on from the bench with just over 20 minutes to play last Saturday and basically livened up proceedings. The former New York Red Bulls and Vancouver Whitecaps FC pacy winger will be hoping to make his full league debut against Palace.
Crystal Palace Team News:
Crystal Palace signed 21 year old Manchester City forward Alex Nimely on loan until the end of the season this week. The Liberia-born 21-year-old, who has made two appearances for City, had spells at Middlesbrough and Coventry last season. Ian Holloway could be tempted to give his first signing for the club a debut against the Clarets after going straight into the squad travelling to Turf Moor.
Defender, Joel Ward is likely to be out for the next four weeks or so with a groin problem, whilst midfielder, Owen Garvan has a knee injury and will be out for three months. Another midfielder, Kagisho Dikgacoi has joined up with the South Africa squad for their African Cup of Nations campaign, whilst striker, Aaron Wilbraham appears to have recovered from a rib injury and could feature.
Player to watch: Julián Speroni
Most reviews would no doubt select Glenn Murray or Wilfried Zaha but if we want to win this one we will have to get past nemesis goalkeeper, Julián Speroni. We were perhaps fortunate last time we managed to get three goals past him in the away fixture back in October last year although it was a shame we conceded four goals at the other end! Normally he plays a blinder against the Clarets and w e shall have to hope he has an off-day this Saturday. The former Platenese and Dundee keeper moved to Palace in 2004 for £250,000. The 33 year old Argentinean took some time to settle in being kept out by none other than Gabor Kiraly who of course enjoyed a brief, rather unsuccessful spell at Turf Moor after leaving Selhurst Park and giving Speroni a chance to shine. He relished the challenge eventually going on to win three successive Player of the Year awards.
Team & Tactics:
The assumption has to be made that the Clarets will be without Charlie Austin and Martin Paterson this Saturday unless Dyche is playing mind games with his counter-part, Ian Holloway. Stock we know will miss out after picking up a one-match suspension for a second yellow against Barnsley and Mee too is still out of contention. A returning McCann looks set to replace Brian Stock in midfield and both Junior Stanislas and new signing, Dane Richards could be chomping at the bit for a start. Richards looked pacy and lively when he came on from the bench against the Tykes in the second half last Saturday. Stanislas had missed three games with a hamstring injury but was named on the bench at Oakwell. Although he did not feature, he could now be back in contention for a starting eleven place. The tactics could be interesting for this one and Dyche might take the view that he needs to be more defensive minded in order to contain the double threat from Murray and Zaha. Stock would be the natural choice for a holding midfield roll but in his absence that task could fall to Dean Marney. I suspect we could play 4-14-1 with the option on the bench to revert to 4-4-2 if required. Sam Vokes again looks likely to be the loan striker up front, perhaps with Ings playing just behind him. Ings has playing a wider role of late with Wallace playing more central in midfield with Treacy on the other flank. The same players are likely to be in the starting eleven but their roles could change depending on Dyche`s tactical decisions. I suspect the line-up could look something like this but I am not sure in all honesty what tactics and formation Dyche will opt for:
Grant, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Lafferty, Marney, McCann, Wallace, Ings, Treacy, Vokes
Subs: Jensen, Edgar, O`Neill, Bartley, Stanislas, Richards, Fletcher
Gavin Ward gets this one! The Surrey referee certainly likes to send folk off this season having been more modest previously! In 22 appearances this season, nine players have seen red! That`s one every 2-3 games. 79 players have also picked up a yellow card this season so far. This will be the first time he will have been in charge of a game involving the Clarets.
Predictions are not easy these days with the Clarets playing with such inconsistency. One day you are playing your best football (e.g. away to Sheffield Wednesday on New Year`s Day) and then one match later looking like a shadow of your former self (i.e. Barnsley in FA Cup). There is no reason why we can`t beat Palace providing the right team shows up but it won`t be easy either way. Burnley to shade it 2-1, please!
We go into the Lions` Den next Saturday! The Clarets travel to South Bermondsey to play Millwall in the New Den on Saturday 12th January (Kick-Off: 3pm)