Clarets fans are going through their lowest point of the season which is an understatement to say the least after the Bolton defeat at the Reebok in midweek and the realisation we are now in the bottom three. It is difficult to remain positive under these circumstances but somehow we have to keep the faith and hope we can survive despite a number of worrying signs.
It is not helped by the fact that we now face Chelsea at Turf Moor this Saturday; a side in awesome form, scoring for fun and neatly perched at the top of the table with the ambition to become this season`s Premier League Champions. Would it not be ironic if we did a typical Burnley and somehow found the grit and determination to beat The Blues both in terms of the club and our depression? The trouble is nobody can see how that would be possible based on our current form. We have not won a league match now since we beat Hull at Turf Moor back in October. That is a sequence of eleven games without anything to cheer about. What is worse is that we now look low on confidence and our last two games against Reading and Bolton have been shambolic and awful to watch. Our new manager, Brian Laws is desperate for his first win and although we lost 3-0 at Old Trafford in his debut game we played well apart from not taking our chances and the Clarets have to find that form again if they are to have any chance of beating Chelsea.
Come on you Clarets!
Predicted Team Sheet
This once more is going to be a difficult one to predict. We have been busy in the transfer market this week signing goalkeeper, Nicky Weaver and centre back, Leon Cort. That`s three signings so far in this transfer window with striker, Frederic Nimani arriving earlier on loan from AS Monaco and making his debut after coming on from the bench against Bolton in midweek. We also await news concerning on-loan Portsmouth striker, David Nugent and whether we have been successful in extending his loan to the end of the season. Laws told the Official Site this week that he hoped to have him available for the Chelsea game with the impression being given that he was confident of completing the deal.
Andre Bikey will also be available now after returning from Angola following Cameroon`s defeat in the African Nations Cup Quarter Final on Monday.
Michael Duff was injured in the game against Bolton on Tuesday night but bravely carried on although two players were not so fortunate. Chris McCann, playing only his second game after a long spell out with cruciate/medial ligament damage accidentally collided with Kalvenes and had to be substituted with the match just 12 minutes in. Four minutes later and Alexander hobbled off the pitch after picking up a calf injury. We await news on all three injuries. One player who will definitely be sidelined is captain, Steven Caldwell who is still struggling with a persistent groin strain.
Stephen Jordan also missed out on the Bolton game after picking up a hamstring injury in training on the Friday before the FA Cup game at Reading. He could be in contention for a return although Kalvenes might have done enough on Tuesday night to retain his place at left-back. There is however also the possibility that Laws could make another signing before Saturday and there have been links to left backs, Danny Fox at Celtic and Derby`s Jay McEveley.
So what team do I predict? Well it`s almost an impossible task with so many uncertainties regarding injuries, loan extensions and new signings. I will make an assumption based on the worst case scenario that Duff, McCann, Alexander and Jordan are still sidelined with injury and no new signings are in contention.
I will also make a plea to rest Elliott who in the last few games has been the shadow of his former self. Give the lad Guerrero a chance to shine!
Here would be my line-up which is more a hope than a prediction but it does in my opinion offer something fresh
Jensen, Mears, Cort, Carlisle, Kalvenes, Bikey, Guerrero, McDonald, Eagles, Fletcher, Nimani
Subs: Weaver, Edgar, Gudjonsson, Elliott, Blake, Nugent, Paterson.
Burnley Team News:
All discussed in great detail above. The latest news is that Jordan may be fit enough to play but both McCann and Alexander will face late fitness tests. David Nugent`s eligibility to play could also be scuppered by the woeful Portsmouth`s lack of professionalism and desire to communicate in a timely manner.
Player to watch: Leon Cort
Leon Cort is in line to make his debut so all eyes will be on our new player. Hopefully he can shore up our defence and may be help up front too from set-pieces. He has a good record for Stoke scoring from free kicks and corners, something which Laws is keen to exploit and improve upon. The Clarets have not scored once from a corner yet this season!
Chelsea Team News:
Ominously for the Clarets, the Ivory Coast are out of the African Nations Cup after being knocked out at the quarter finals stage by Algeria. Their 3-2 defeat more than likely means that both Didier Drogba and Saloman Kalou will be in the Chelsea starting eleven.
Nigeria lost their African Nations Cup semi-final 1-0 to Ghana on Thursday night but that comes too late for Chelsea to consider selecting Jon Obi Mikel.
One player who didn`t play in Ghana`s semi-final victory was Michael Essien. He picked up a knee injury earlier in the competition during training in Angola and has since returned to Chelsea to recuperate. The midfielder`s injury will keep him out of action for between four and six weeks.
Player to watch: Didier Drogba
You could in all honesty with such depth of quality in Chelsea`s squad have picked any of their players as the one to watch. However one of their strikers has already scored 19 goals this season (14 of them in the League) so it is relatively easy to choose Didier Drogba. It is hard to imagine our defence containing him but somehow we have to! It is even more ominous when you also realise that as well as Drogba, Chelsea also have in the table of Top 15 Premier League Scorers, Lampard with 10 goals and Anelka on 7 goals.
Back to the Future
The last time we played Chelsea was in the game at Stamford Bridge back in August last year. It is a match Clarets fans will want to quickly forget with the Blues that day teaching us a lesson in the art of how to play awesome flowing, attacking football. In the end we only lost 3-0 but it was not comfortable viewing for Clarets fans for most of the match.
The last time we were in the top flight back in the 1975-76 season Chelsea were actually a second division team but we would be soon be joining them after being relegated that season. In the following season with both teams slogging it out in the second tier of English football, the Clarets went down 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in November 1976 (Noble getting our goal in the 77th minute) but managed to defeat them at home 1-0 in the return game at Turf Moor (Ingham scored 5 minutes from time). Chelsea would be promoted that season in second place with Burnley struggling and finishing 16th.
Staffordshire referee, Phil Dowd will be in charge of this one. Clarets fans will recall he was also in charge of our high-profile game against Manchester United at Turf Moor earlier in the season so maybe that is a good omen. He was however also in charge of our game at Pompey where he came in for some heavy criticism.
This really is a heart over mind battle. I just can`t see anything other than a heavy defeat and I fear Fortress Turf Moor could witness only its second defeat all season. We have to hope and pray Chelsea have some sort of off-day and we play like Kings. This really has to be another Manchester United or Arsenal performance if we are to stand any chance of getting something from this game. The first goal will be crucial, if Chelsea get it, we could fold and let in a pot full.
I am hoping and praying that against all the odds, Burnley can find something and get the first goal, we might then hold out for a draw. I just can`t see Chelsea not getting an equaliser and I certainly can`t see us keeping a clean sheet.
Heart wins as usual and I will go for 1-1.
Forget Chelsea the one we really have to win to stand any chance of survival in my opinion is the next match up against West Ham at home on Saturday 6th February (3pm Kick-Off).
This is one of five home matches against struggling teams also in the relegation dogfight that I have targeted as must win games with the others coming up being Portsmouth, Wolves, Blackburn and Stoke. If we get fifteen points from those five games we will have 35 points and have a reasonable chance of staying up. Any other points we pick up home or away will then be a bonus and increase our survival chances.