Date: 25th December 2012 at 11:06am
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Burnley will be looking for only their second win in nine games when they face Derby County at Turf Moor on Boxing Day

The Pre-amble:

There is no doubt about it, Burnley are dropping far too many points of late. It is not that they are playing that badly, it`s more the fact that they can`t seem to make their possession and dominance count at critical stages in the games. They have only one won of their last eight games (away to Hull last month) and they are rapidly becoming draw kings with just a point earned in four of those eight games including two at home. The Clarets have gradually begun to lose ground on the promotion chasing pack and are now already seven points behind the sixth placed club Watford. They are currently in 14th spot on 30 points from 23 games. It is vitally important that we start to string a few wins together if we are to retain any hope of a play-offs spot come the end of the season. We now have an ideal opportunity to start that process with two home games coming up over the festive season. Burnley play high-flying Leicester City at Turf Moor on Saturday but first they must defeat Derby County on Boxing Day.

The Rams have had a bit of a topsy-turvy season and are currently in 10th spot just three points ahead of the Clarets. Their form is pretty good at the moment and they will be looking for their third win in four against the Clarets on Wednesday. Derby however did lose their last game at home to Hull last Friday and their away form has also been pretty shaky. The 2-0 victory over Bristol City at Ashton Gate in their last away match ended a four-game losing streak on the road. Nigel Clough’s men will nevertheless not be easy to overcome but this is exactly the sort of game we need to win and win convincingly if we are to become a force in the Championship this season. If we do win it will be our first double of the season after beating them 2-1 at Pride Park back in September. Burnley are indeed unbeaten in seven games against Derby and will be hoping to complete a second double over them in three seasons!

Burnley Team News:

Both Daniel Lafferty and Brian Stock missed out against Birmingham at St Andrews last Saturday due to injury and both now face a late fitness test ahead of the Rams clash. With Ben Mee suffering from medial ligament damage and not expected to return until the New Year, the left back spot looks likely to be filled by Joseph Mills again unless Lafferty makes a full recovery in time.

Player to watch: Jason Shackell

Shackell will no doubt be keen to impress his former employers again and we need a captain`s game in this one with three points vital if we are to retain any hope of mounting a promotion push.

Derby County Team News:

Derby gaffer, Nigel Clough has no new injury concerns with Gareth Roberts (calf), Will Hughes (ankle) and Conor Sammon (calf) all shrugging off their niggling injuries to play in their last game at home to Hull. Defender Mark O’Brien is back to full fitness following cramp and looks set to be in competition with James O’Connor for a starting place. Theo Robinson and Ben Davies both came off the bench in the Hull clash and could both be in line for recalls to the starting eleven. Teenage defender Valentin Gjokaj might also be given a role to play by Clough.

Player to watch: Theo Robinson

Robinson always seems to be a handful when he plays against the Clarets and this season he is currently their leading goal-scorer having so far hit the back of the net nine times in all competitions. The 23 year old striker signed for the Rams in July 2011 after his contract at Millwall expired. He had previously enjoyed a loan spell at Pride Park before agreeing a two year permanent deal.

Team & Tactics:

Sean Dyche`s tactics for this clash could well depend on the fitness of Danny Lafferty and Brian Stock. If both fail to make the eighteen, we could see a very similar line-up to the one that faced Birmingham at St Andrews last Saturday. The left back spot in particular must be a worry for Dyche, With Mee sidelined until the New Year and with Lafferty potentially out injured, Joseph Mills could be in line to keep his place. The problem though could be the fact that Mills was given the run-around against Brum and looked less than impressive. He also picked up his fourth yellow card so one more and he faces an automatic one match ban which could be a problem if Mee and Lafferty are both sidelined. Brian Stock also missed out of a place in the eighteen for the first time this season at St Andrews so if he remains injured Dyche could prefer to play a more aggressive 4-4-2 with Ings playing just behind Austin again. For my line-up prediction, I am having to assume both Lafferty and Stock will miss out although I suspect Dyche will be very much hoping Lafferty is fit enough to play. The eighteen could be the same as the Brum game if both Lafferty and Stock miss out. So that would mean:

Grant, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Mills, Wallace, Marney, McCann, Paterson, Ings, Austin

Subs: Jensen, Edgar, Long, Bartley, Stanislas, Treacy, Vokes

Many Clarets fans remain convinced Dyche needs to change tactics after recent performances. Martin Paterson continues to come under criticism and although he made a bright start against Birmingham last Saturday, he did seem to fade again. Sam Vokes should also perhaps be given a better chance to shine rather than just come on for the last few minutes from the bench every time and then there is the question of the wingers with both Treacy and Stanislas having to be content with a place on the bench at the moment. Treacy of course is the surprise package having fought his way back into favour under Dyche and you can`t help but think he might soon be given a more prominent role to play.

Ref Watch:

Tyne & Wear referee, Andy Haines is in charge of the match. He has been pretty lenient with his card showing this season. Only one player has been sent off so far in his 15 games in charge with another 43 seeing yellow. His last match involving the Clarets was back in August when we defeated Port Vale 3-1 in the Carling Cup at Vale Park. Three yellow cards were shown that day!

Match Prediction:

We need some Christmas cheer and we need three points! Too many disappointing draws of late and loss of points especially at home! So come on lets change from stuffing Turkeys to stuffing Rams!! 3-1 Clarets

Next Match:

The festive madness continues with another home game this time against high-flying Leicester City on Saturday 29th December (Kick-Off: 3pm)