Burnley play Leicester City at the Walkers Stadium this Saturday desperate to get their promotion dream back on track following some dismal performances of late.
The games are rapidly running out and we have hit poor form at just the wrong time. The last four games have been a nightmare with just one point from a possible twelve. Two home defeats to Millwall and Ipswich plus another loss away to Bristol City has meant we have had to be content with just the home draw against struggling Coventry City! Content we are not considering all the last four sides have been pretty mediocre. It has simply not been good enough and all Clarets fans are at a loss to explain the current drastic dip in form following five wins from six under Eddie Howe earlier this year. One thing is clear if there is no improvement against the Foxes we can kiss goodbye to any hopes of reaching the play-offs.
It was not helped in midweek by 6th placed club, Reading beating Preston 2-1 and moving six points clear of the Clarets albeit having now played a game more. We are currently in 9th spot still with a game in hand over some of our promotion rivals but we are failing to make any impression, continuing to lose ground and looking like we now need a minor miracle to get our promotion hopes back on track. There are just seven games to play after Leicester and we still have to play promotion contenders Forest and Leeds away not to mention Swansea and Cardiff at home. Our fate is well and truly in our hands!
Realistically with some tough games coming up against our promotion rivals in the run-in we have to secure maximum points against the Foxes on Saturday and that won`t be easy at the Walkers Stadium when you consider our current poor form. The Walkers Stadium has been a lucky ground for the Clarets since Leicester moved there in 2002. We have not lost or conceded a goal in the five matches we have played there. We have won four of them 1-0 and picked up a 0-0 draw in the other!
Leicester too are currently suffering from poor form after being within one point and one place of the play-offs in mid February. Since that time Sven`s men have picked up just one win in their last seven games and have the worst goal difference in the top half of the division. Leicester are also yet to keep a clean sheet at home in the Championship in 2011 and have lost their last two home games.
The Foxes are currently 12th in the table but ominously just one point behind the Clarets albeit having played a game more.
A win for the Clarets, and boy do we need one, would complete a fourth league ‘double’ of the season having already beaten Watford, Hull and Barnsley both home and away. A third consecutive home loss for Leicester would also be the first time that has happened in almost four years. Come on you Clarets, now truly is the time to be counted and to keep our season alive!
Leicester City Team News:
Foxes defender Ben Mee on loan from Manchester City has been passed fit after missing the last match against Middlesbrough with an injury.
Leicester gaffer, Sven-Göran Eriksson though does have some worries ahead of the game.
For a start, central defender, Jeffrey Bruma is suspended following his red card at the Riverside at the weekend for a second bookable offence.
Full-back Kyle Naughton is also a doubt after missing training with a throat problem.
Striker, Martyn Waghorn is also now out for the rest of the season following a hamstring injury sustained in training.
Player to watch: Ayegbeni Yakubu
‘The Yak` has been on fire since arriving on loan from Everton in January this year. He has scored 7 times in 13 appearances for the Foxes culminating in a hat-trick in Leicester`s last match away to Middlesbrough; a game which finished 3-3.
The 28 year old Nigerian international striker will certainly need to be watched like a hawk on Saturday
Burnley Team News:
Jack Cork of course missed the last game on Saturday at home to Ipswich after being taken ill in the midweek England International Under 21 game against Iceland. He was hospitalised overnight suffering from palpitations and increased heart rate before returning to parent club Chelsea for further tests. Cork has still not fully recovered from his ordeal but was expected back at Turf Moor for training his week. He looks set for a return against Forest at the City ground next Tuesday night but will not play on Saturday.
Chris McCann came through an hour unscathed in another reserves match on Tuesday night this time against Morecambe helping the second-string win 3-1. This was only his second competitive game this season after a long haul recovery from first cruciate ligament surgery and then a head operation. McCann is making good progress but still needs at least another 90 minute run out for the reserves before being considered for first-team selection. He may get that chance on Monday night at Turf Moor against Macclesfield Town Reserves.
Steven Thompson is also progressing well after surgery to fix an infected groin injury, and he is understood to be close to a return after increasing his training schedule. There is also some good news regarding fellow striker, Martin Paterson. Pato has just entered light training and although doubtful there is still an outside chance he could still play some part this season with just eight matches still to play. Charlie Austin though of course will definitely not return until next season following his dislocated shoulder.
Danny Fox will also sit out the Leicester match. He completes the second of his two match ban after picking up his tenth yellow card in our last away match against Bristol City before the International break.
Player to watch: Brian Easton
Easton has been given another chance to make his mark at left back in the light of Danny Fox`s suspension. He had an OK-ish sort of game against Ipswich last Saturday and will be hoping to put in a good performance against Leicester so he can keep his place with Fox available for the Forest game next Tuesday night.
Team & Tactics
There is some thought that Brian Jensen could be set for a recall after shall we say some indifferent performances recently from Lee Grant. Could Eddie Howe though be considering other changes in the light of recent very poor performances? He wrung the changes against Ipswich but they failed to bring any benefit especially in the first half.
New loan, Shane Duffy took over from Clarke Carlisle in the centre of defence and looked solid enough without being spectacular. The main problem though stemmed from our midfield with both Chris Eagles and Ross Wallace putting in dismal performances not helped also by the absence of Jack Cork. Things certainly brightened up in the second half once Wade Elliott came on from the bench. The problem with Eagles seems to be that the opposition are getting wise to him and putting two makers on him all the time. He continues to look frustrated and bewildered unable to make an impression of any kind. Perhaps it`s time to rest him even though it would be his 100th start for the Clarets.
The line-up is anybody`s guess at the moment making a prediction almost impossible so instead I will select a team that I think can do the business. That assumes of course that they can manage to play to their strengths both individually and as a team especially in terms of their passing game and penetration something they have sadly lacked of late:
Jensen, Mears, Duffy, Bikey, Easton, Wallace, Marney, Bartley, Elliott, Rodriguez, Delfouneso
Subs: Grant, Duff, Carlisle, Alexander, Edgar, Eagles, Iwelumo
Cheshire referee, Mike Dean gets this one! Dean is one of the country`s most experienced referees having begun his career in 1985. Progressing through the Northern Premier League he joined the Football League referee list in 1997 and then the Select Group of referees in 2000. He was appointed to the FIFA International Referees list in 2002.
The chap from the Wirral has been in charge of 35 games this season mainly at Premier League level, handing out 5 red cards and 122 yellow. This will be his first Championship game of the season! You may recall the last game he was in charge of the Clarets. That was our last match of last season and it was our swansong in the top flight following relegation from the Premier League. At least we left on a high note thumping Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 at Turf Moor.
The simple truth is if we play like we have in the last four games we will get slaughtered. Somehow we have to find the earlier form and to some degree luck we had under Eddie Howe earlier in the year especially in terms of picking up points away from home. If we can do that at our ‘lucky ground` expect a 2-1 win.
Seven games left to play after the Leicester match starting with a toughie away to current 7th placed promotion rivals, Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on the night of Tuesday 12th April (Kick-Off 7:45pm)