The Clarets are doing remarkably well in their first season in the Premier League and thanks to our home form we are currently a Top 10 side in ninth spot and have 9 points from a total of six games. However we have yet to score away from home this season let alone get a point. Two of the defeats though have been against Top Four clubs with both Chelsea and Liverpool taking us to the cleaners. We now face 6th placed Tottenham at White Hart Lane in our first league clash in over 33 years, bringing back memories of the times when both these clubs were fighting it out to win the Division One title back in the 1960s. It is hard to believe Burnley & Spurs were once the Manchester United & Arsenal of their time but it is great to now start the league battles again. In many ways maybe we have to thank Spurs for knocking us out of the Carling Cup in the semi-final last season. The defeat in the last two minutes of extra time of the second leg at Turf Moor was hard to stomach but it seemed to spur us on (if you pardon the pun) for the rest of the season and make us more determined to go to Wembley the hard-way and get the much bigger prize of promotion. Now we are back so let battle commence. Come on you Clarets.
It has not been a good week for the Clarets following our thumping 3-1 victory against Sunderland on Saturday. Chris McCann limped off in that match with a scan revealing he had damaged his medial ligament and would face up to three months out of action. It then got worse in midweek when as well as being defeated by Barnsley at the hell that is Oakwell in the Carling Cup we also had two players stretchered-off, Martin Paterson and Brian Jensen. Pato had to have an operation the day after the match and it was confirmed he too would be out for 3 months with a torn cartilage. At least there was better news on the Beast. He picked up a dead leg and the feeling at the club is that he is recovering well with a strong chance of playing this Saturday.
We are lucky this season that we have depth of cover in the squad but it is still a blow to lose Pato and Chris for a few months. Both our wingers, Chris Eagles and Fernando Guerrero shone in the midweek game against the Tykes and may have secured a starting eleven place against Spurs although I suspect Guerrero is more likely to be bench warming. It was disappointing though that the candidates for replacing Chris McCann didn`t seem to be up for it with both Joey Gudjonsson and Kevin McDonald putting in lacklustre performances perhaps giving Owen Coyle a dilemma in his midfield team selection for Saturday. It should also be remembered we played 4-4-2 against Barnsley and I suspect we shall return to 4-1-4-1 or 4-1-3-2 for the clash against Spurs
There is an obvious candidate to replace Paterson but it could depend on our formation. Coyle may be tempted to just play Fletcher up front supported on the wings by Eagles and Blake with Elliott and Gudjonsson in centre midfield. He could however opt to bring in new loan striker, David Nugent for his first start after he came on from the bench and bagged a brace in spectacular fashion last Saturday against Sunderland. He could be up front supported by Fletcher once more playing a wider role. On the other hand, Nugent is still not totally match fit and Coyle could be tempted again to use him as an impact sub but either way I expect to see him make an appearance at some point. He does after all have a point to prove to Harry Redknapp, his former gaffer at Portsmouth who seemed to take a dislike to the former Bury & Preston striker shortly after signing him for £6 million.
Our captain, Steven Caldwell is now back in full training but has yet to play for the Clarets this season after picking up a groin injury in the Scotland international in Oslo against Norway. Owen Coyle might want to make a statement and include him on the bench if he is fully fit.
I will go for this predicted line up in 4-1-4-1
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Jordan, Alexander, Eagles, Gudjonsson, Elliott, Blake, Fletcher
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes (or Caldwell if fit), Duff, McDonald, Guerrero, Nugent, Thompson
Tottenham Hotspur Team News:
Peter Crouch is one player hoping to start on Saturday following his hat-trick against Preston in midweek in the Carling Cup. The 28-year-old England international took has now scored five times this season but Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane seem to be Harry`s preferred strike pairing for Spurs and he could once more find himself disappointed and on the bench.
Sebastien Bassong faces a later fitness test after being in the wars at Stamford Bridge last Sunday. The central defender was stretchered off with a head and neck injury at Chelsea after also picking up a knee problem in the same game. He was since cleared by a head and neck specialist earlier in the week, Sebastien
‘He feels alright so hopefully it won’t be a problem,’ said Redknapp after training on Friday.
Ledley King has definitely been ruled out though. Scans revealed he had picked up a mild hamstring strain in the London derby at Stamford Bridge.
Another casualty for this game is Giovani. He picked up an ankle injury in the midweek Carling Cup game at Deepdale and will have a scan when the swelling goes down.
Giovani dos Santos is out of the reckoning after picking up an ankle injury in Wednesday night’s 5-1 win at Preston in the Carling Cup. He will be scanned once the swelling goes down.
One player who broke Clarets hearts in the Carling Cup last season will also be sidelined although even if fit he may have struggled to get into the team with the attacking power that Spurs currently have up front. Roman Pavlyuchenko though has an Achilles injury so won`t feature although he is now running again.
Jonathan Woodgate is also making progress with his groin injury following an injection last week but he won`t fit be fit in time to play against the Clarets.
Finally Luka Modric continues his rehabilitation from a fractured fibula but is another player Burnley will not need to worry about.
Player to watch: Jermain Defoe
Defoe has already scored 5 League goals this season and looks on fire. He also helped himself to one in the 5-1 Carling Cup defeat of Preston at Deepdale in midweek. If the Clarets can keep him quiet we might stand a chance. However, having said that though we then have to keep Robbie Keane at bay and possibly Peter Crouch who scored a hat-trick against Preston and looks in contention for a start on Saturday.
Burnley Team News:
Michael Duff played his first game for the Clarets this season coming on from the bench against Barnsley in midweek after recovering from an ankle injury. Our captain, Steven Caldwell is also close to a return after recovering from a groin injury that has kept him sidelined all season. He returned to full training this week.
Chris McCann began his long road to recovery though after limping off against Sunderland last Saturday, a subsequent scan revealing he would be sidelined for 2-3 months with medial ligament damage. Surgery on Martin Paterson, stretchered-off against Barnsley in midweek also revealed a torn cartilage requiring 3 months for repair and recuperation.
Brian Jensen who was also stretchered-off against the Tykes at Oakwell appears to be recovering well from his dead leg and looks set to be fit for the Spurs clash.
Player to watch: David Nugent
Can David Nugent silence his critics again? The striker, despite not being fully match fit, looks to be in blistering form after a drought of goals at Portsmouth. He came on from the bench on the hour mark against Sunderland at Turf Moor last Saturday in his home league debut and bagged a brace. Two goals in two games compared to 3 league goals for Pompey in two years! One such critic of course is Spurs boss, Harry Redknapp who signed him for Portsmouth when he was gaffer at Fratton Park. It seemed the twitchy one then regretted his decision after he looked prepared to offload him in the same transfer window to Derby County; a deal that never happened. Nugent spent the rest of his time at Pompey on the bench or playing on the wing under the various managers in charge and clearly regrets ever making the move down South.
It is not clear if he has done enough to start this Saturday in view of his lack of match fitness and an impact sub role again might be more appropriate but with Martin Paterson sidelined I fully expect to see Nugent on the pitch at some point during the game. I suspect he will be on the bench and come on in the second-half around the hour mark again depending on the state-of-play.
Back to the Future
Well we will all remember the heartbreak when we last played Spurs after they knocked us out of the Carling Cup at the semi final stage last season. It looked to be all over after the 4-1 first leg defeat at White Hart lane despite the Clarets impressive first half performance when we played Spurs off the park and went into the break 1-0 up following a strike by Paterson in the 15th minute. The second leg at Turf Moor might have seemed a formality for Spurs until Burnley brought back the aggregate score to 4-4 after three goals by Blake, McCann and Rodriguez. Due to the vagaries of the Carling Cup, our away goal did not count double despite beating Spurs 3-0 over 90 minutes and so we embarked on extra time holding out until 2 minutes from time when two late goals from Pavlyuchenko and Defoe broke all our hearts.
In the league though it has been 33 years since we last faced Spurs and in that season, 1975-76 we were relegated in 21st spot finishing second from bottom, never to return until 2009. Spurs that season finished in 9th spot and back then were managed by Terry Neill. Their team contained a number of household names and some would that become so. Pat Jennings, Steve Perryman, Glenn Hoddle, Martin Chivers and Jimmy Neighbour were just a few players that spring to mind but they also had former Clarets favourite, England international Ralph Coates in their side. Ralph had signed for them in May 1971 for £190000 leaving Clarets fans in tears.
We played at White Hart Lane on Saturday 29th November 1975. Jimmy Adamson was still manager (just!) at the time but his days were numbered and in front of a crowd of 21,222 we took the lead in the first half thanks to a Ray Hankin goal after 25 minutes. Spurs though came back strongly in the second half with goals after 63 and 75 minutes to win 2-1. We were though down to ten men in the days when only one substitute was allowed after losing both Doug Collins and Willie Morgan to injury. The return match was played at Turf Moor on Saturday 20th March 1976 and this time new manager, Jo Brown was in charge but it made no odds. I am afraid Spurs completed the double over us and by the same score, 2-1. Spurs took the lead in the 58th minute and we looked to have secured a point when Waldron equalised after 83 minutes. It wasn`t to be though and with just three minutes to go, Spurs got the winner. Just 15490 fans that day saw Doug Collins play his last game for the Clarets although at the time they did not know it. Relegation now looked almost a certainty and we remained in 21st place running out of luck and looking doomed.
Wirral referee Mike Dean is in town. We know a Wembley song about him!
Spurs of course got off to a blistering start this season but have suffered two defeats on the bounce albeit against Manchester United at home and Chelsea away. They will be anxious to get back on track and maybe that could be to our advantage in a game where we wouldn`t be expected to come away with anything. We are once more the underdogs with most pundits forecasting a 3-0-type defeat for the Clarets and somehow we have to try and prove them wrong. One thing is clear, we need to have learnt some lessons after the Chelsea and Liverpool games otherwise we will get punished again with the likes of Defoe, Keane and Crouch around. Our defence has looked naive at times on the road with the midfield unable to command their area. We simply have to play like we did last season in the first half of the Carling Cup clash at White Hart lane and do so for 90 minutes to stand a chance of getting at least a point. The key to our victory could be the performance of David Nugent who clearly has a point to prove against his former gaffer at Pompey, Harry Redknapp.
My heartfelt prediction ignoring the brain again is a 1-1 draw
Another must-win game is coming up against one of the clubs likely to be fighting for survival this season. Birmingham come to Turf Moor on Saturday 3rd October with a 3pm Kick-Off