Date: 31st December 2012 at 11:31am
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Burnley travel to Hillsborough on New Year`s Day, hoping to beat a struggling but improved Sheffield Wednesday side and get 2013 off with a bang.

The Pre-amble:

The Clarets kick off 2013 with a New Year`s Day visit to Hillsborough and they will be hoping to return to winning ways and get the New Year off to a good start against a struggling Sheffield Wednesday side. It was a poor game at home to Leicester City on Saturday following the Boxing Day win against Derby County at Turf Moor. We had an ideal chance to move into the Top 10 and move to within a point of the play-offs against the Foxes but fluffed it going down 1-0 in a disappointing performance. Although we remained in 13th spot we lost further ground on the promotion chasing pack and we are now seven points behind the sixth-placed club Watford, who also have a game in hand. If we retain any hopes of reaching the play-offs, we have to start playing with some consistency and get some back-to-back wins under our belt. We have not achieved that under Sean Dyche since his opening two games when we beat Wolves and Leeds United last November!

Under normal circumstances, you would expect our chances against Sheffield Wednesday to be pretty high considering they are fourth from bottom on 25 points just three clear of the drop zone. Dave Jones` men though have found a new lease of life in recent games and are now unbeaten in their last four. Not only that but they have also kept a clean sheet in all four games. The Owls also have the unnerving habit of picking up points against the Clarets and are unbeaten against Burnley in their last four games. They have also scored 11 goals against the Clarets in their last three. It was a six goal thriller in the reverse fixture at Turf Moor earlier in the season but sadly the six goals were shared in a 3-3 draw despite a hat-trick from Charlie Austin. Austin of course is a doubt for Tuesday`s clash so our task could be even greater. Although Wednesday won their last home game 2-0 after beating Charlton earlier this month, their form at Hillsborough is not that impressive with four defeats out of their last six games on home soil so we shall have to hope we can halt the Owls recent momentum!

Sheffield Wednesday Team News:

Owls gaffer, Dave Jones has two main injury concerns. Striker Jay Bothroyd (ankle) and midfielder Jose Semedo (knee) remain doubtful for Tuesday’s game. His attacking options though could be boosted with Chris O’Grady, Mamady Sidibe and winger Jermaine Johnson all in contention for a recall.

Player to watch: Chris Kirkland

The keeper at the moment seems to be the man to beat with Wednesday having now gone four games without conceding a goal. The 31 year old England International joined the Owls from Wigan in May 2012 and was immediately made first-choice keeper.

Burnley Team News:

The biggest concern for Sean Dyche will be leading goal-scorer, Charlie Austin. He passed a late fitness test ahead of the Leicester game at Turf Moor on Saturday only to break down again seven minutes into the match with a recurring gluteal problem. It remains to be seen too if Junior Stanislas is back in contention following a hamstring injury. Ben Mee remains sidelined with a medial knee ligament injury.

Player to watch: Keith Treacy

Treacy has fought his way back into favour under Sean Dyche and started his first game for the Clarets since February 2012 on Saturday against Leicester. He of course spent the latter part of last season on loan to our opponents so it will be interesting to see if he turns the screw against his former team mates. He played seven times for the Owls last season scoring one goal before returning to his parent club.

Team & Tactics:

Surely if Austin is still sidelined, Dyche will give Sam Vokes a chance this time instead of keeping him on the bench and playing Paterson? We shall have to wait and see. If Austin is not fit enough to play, I would expect a similar starting eleven to Saturday although do hope this time we can see how well Vokes and Ings link up from the start. Of course if Stanislas is back in contention, we could see more radical changes and perhaps a move back to 4-1-4-1 with Stock in the holding midfield role. Dyche certainly seems to have options. I would like to see the following line-up, not that I expect to see it and think we should play a true 4-4-2 :

Grant, Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Lafferty, Wallace, McCann, Marney, Treacy (or Stanislas if fit), Ings, Vokes (or Austin if fit)

Subs: Jensen, Edgar, Mills (and/or O`Neill), Stock, Bartley, Paterson.

Of course if Austin starts, then Vokes would make up the subs bench more than likely with Stanislas also in the eighteen if fit.

Ref Watch:

Lancashire referee, David Webb is in charge of this clash! He seems to be making a habit of refereeing Wars of the Roses games involving the Clarets despite hailing from the Red Rose side of the Pennines. His last game was Burnley`s 2-0 defeat away to Huddersfield back in August this year so Clarets fans will be hoping for a better result this time. Only one yellow card was shown that day and indeed so far this season Webb`s card tally has been pretty modest. In his 19 games so far in 2012-13 only two players have seen red with another 56 picking up yellow cards.

Match Prediction:

Sheffield Wednesday would have to hit form at the wrong time! Burnley badly need to win to get any hopes of reaching the play-offs back on track but we now need to do it against a resurgent Owls who have not conceded a goal in any of their last four games. I guess it depends which team turns up and whether Austin is fit enough to play! We are so inconsistent anything could happen. We may have to settle for a point but we should be good enough to avoid defeat. Sod it, I will go with a narrow win for the Clarets 2-1!

Next Match:

We give the Championship a rest for a bit and won`t return until Saturday 12th January when we have a home game against high-flying Crystal Palace (Kick-Off: 3pm) In the mean time we have the little matter of the FA Cup third round tie! It`s a trip to the dreaded Oakwell on Saturday 5th January