Date: 27th July 2011 at 1:57pm
Written by:

The Clarets bring their pre-season schedule of friendly games to a close this Saturday (30th July) when they will face their strongest opposition to date with Premier League, Sunderland the visitors to Turf Moor (Kick-Off 3pm)

The Pre-amble

Burnley play their sixth and final pre-season friendly this Saturday with just one week to go after that before the new season kicks-off on Saturday 6th August. They have had a reasonable pre-season so far with three wins and one draw against lower league opposition just losing the one game away to League 2m Bristol Rovers at ‘The Mem`. They struggled somewhat though in their last game away to Oldham at Boundary Park in midweek having to be content with a dull 0-0 draw. The clash against the League 1 side was the Clarets strongest opposition of the summer to date but now they face a real challenge with Premier League, Sunderland the visitors to Turf Moor this Saturday. Eddie must surely by now have sorted out in his mind a likely starting eleven and subs bench for our season opener at home to Watford and we could get our biggest clue yet when we see the line-up against the Black Cats. At the time of writing there had still been no permanent signing at the club during the summer with Clarets fans having to be content with two new loan signings from Manchester City, defenders Ben Mee and Keiran Trippier despite also having to come to terms with the loss of Cork, Eagles and Mears.

Howe looks set once again to show his trust in the younger players in the squad but once again it is difficult to predict his team selection. He still seemed to be experimenting as late as the Oldham game with some key players noticeably missing. I think probably though we can expect to see Marney, Edgar, McCann, Rodriguez and Bikey back in contention this Saturday.

Burnley Team News:

There is no news of any injuries from the clash against Oldham on Tuesday night so Eddie Howe looks like he will have his full squad to choose from. I suspect a number of the development players in the squad though may well sit this one out as Howe hones his team for the season kick-off. Wes Fletcher looks the most likely to feature but Jon Stewart, Kevin Long, Alex-Ray Harvey, Joe McKee, Steven Hewitt and Dominic Knowles could miss out. All of these players were named on the bench against Oldham but surely the heavyweights will now be back in contention?

Player to watch: The Team Really!!

To be honest Clarets fans will be more interested in watching the whole team with so many changes from last season hoping to get one final sneak preview of how well they are all gelling together before the season kick-offs. Some Clarets fans may not have seen them play on the road during the summer and this will be their first chance in our first and only home friendly to see how well the preparations are progressing. All eyes will certainly be on the new loan signings and hopefully some new faces should we sign anybody else this week.

Sunderland Team News:

Well Clarets fans may well be wondering which of Black Cats gaffer; Steve Bruce`s nine new players could be on show at Turf Moor this Saturday! Certainly puts our measly two loans to date in perspective! Sunderland have made some high-profile signings including in the summer including Manchester United defenders, Wes Brown and John O`Shea but also Connor Wickham from Ipswich. The list also includes Ahmed Elmohamedy (now permanent signing after loan last season), Keiren Westwood, Seb Larsson, Ji Dong-Won, Craig Gardner and David Vaughan.

At the time of writing, Sunderland had a friendly to play against Kilmarnock in Scotland on Wednesday night and we will bring you news if there are any injuries from that match. John O`Shea, Craig Gordon, David Meyler and Fraizer Campbell were still sidelined for that game and it remains to be seen if they are fit in time to play on Saturday at Turf Moor. Titus Bramble though will be in contention after serving a one-match ban for his red card against Borussia Mochengladbach during their recent summer tour in Germany.

Player to watch: Connor Wickham

Connor Wickham is Sunderland`s most expensive signing of the summer and in the eyes of many Black Cats fans their biggest gamble. Bruce and Quinn expressed the need for a target man, and at 6’3′ Wickham fits the bill. Regarded as one of the hottest young properties in English football, it was something of a coup when Sunderland secured his signature. The Ipswich England Under 21 international striker, signed for the Black Cats in June 2011 penning a four year deal for a fee of £8 million. The fee has the potential to rise to £12 million over the course of the contract

Last Time We Met

Clarets may well remember the last time we played Sunderland. It was during our Premier League season of 2009-10. Earlier in the season, when things were looking promising after beating Manchester United and Everton at home we also inflicted a 3-1 victory over the Black Cats at Turf Moor but by the time we played them again at the Stadium of Light on Saturday 17th April 2010 things looked very bleak for the Clarets. We were deep in trouble with relegation staring us in the face and we had only just won our first away game of the season in the previous match against Hull City, That was some game and we thrashed the Tigers 4-1 but could we now inflict the same result on their feline cousins, the Black Cats? The short-answer was no, we lost 2-1 and relegation beckoned.

Brian Laws team selection that day was as follows:

Jensen, Mears, Duff, Cort, Fox, Alexander, Elliott, Cork, Eagles, Paterson, Fletcher

Subs: Weaver, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Bikey, Blake, Thompson

The score line suggests a hard fought match but nothing could be further from the truth. We were completely outplayed and outclassed by Sunderland in the first half. Already 2-0 down thanks to goals from Campbell and Bent after 25 and 40 mins we looked a beaten side at half-time. In truth it could have been far worse with our defence seemingly having returned to its all too familiar suicide mode and Sunderland looking to extend their lead even more. We were also so ineffective up front fans were struggling to remember one decent attempt on goal!

We looked slightly better in the second half and enjoyed a lot more possession but you just sensed Sunderland were taking it easy. Thompson was looking more effective up front after coming on at half time to replace Paterson but we had to wait until the 82nd minute before we could give Sunderland a scare. Robbie Blake had only been on the pitch a minute but a little bit of magic from the wizard found Thompson who thumped the ball home from 25 yards out. The Clarets now had something to fight for in the last eight minutes of this match and you would have thought it would have stirred them into action to try and get the equaliser. We just never seemed to press enough after that though and despite four minutes of added time we never looked like getting a point.

Match Prediction:

I fear the Black Cats will be too strong for the Clarets unless Eddie Howe has managed to strengthen the side with some new permanent signings before Saturday. Probably looking at something like a 1-0 or 2-1 defeat.

Next Match

That`s it the pre-season friendlies are over now ! The next time we will see the Clarets play will be in anger in our opening match of the 2011-12 season. In case you didn`t know, our first game will be at home to Watford on Saturday 6th August (Kick-Off 3pm)