Burnley continue their little spell of games on the road this Saturday and following visits to Villa Park in the Carling Cup and Loftus Road in the Championship now travel to Carrow Road to play high-flying Norwich City.
The Clarets still await that elusive first away win on the road in the league this season and they now have another chance to break their duck on Saturday with Norwich City the hosts at Carrow Road. You just sense at the moment that the automatic promotion places could be slipping away with league leaders Cardiff City already eleven points clear and second place QPR nine points ahead of 8th placed Burnley. Unless we start winning a few games away and avoid slipping up at home a la Reading, we might have to be content with a fight for one of the play-offs positions and there are certainly a host of clubs in the mix for that at the moment with just three points separating Doncaster Rovers in 15th spot and Reading in 6th place.
Our away form has certainly been pretty good of late but we just can`t seem to take our chances and kill games off. We lost a two goal advantage at Bramall Lane against the Blades recently, went ahead again late on but then conceded a late equaliser in added time to draw 3-3. We held our own against Premier League Aston Villa in the Carling Cup clash at Villa Park and there was certainly no disgrace in losing that match 2-1 with again quite a few chances to take the game to penalties. Only last Saturday, the then league leaders, QPR took on the Clarets at Loftus Road and we came away with a well-earned valuable point which so easily could have been three had just one of Jay Rodriguez`s umpteen chances gone in!
Newly promoted from League 1 last season, Norwich City have been pretty impressive this season and are currently in 5th spot two points ahead of the Clarets. They at least go into this game on the back of a defeat having been comprehensively beaten 3-1 by Cardiff City away last Saturday.
Norwich boss Paul Lambert`s side has however shown indifferent form at home. In the seven games played so far at Carrow Road they have won 4 and lost 3 with curiously no draws yet. Let`s hope we can even that up to 4-4!
Norwich City Team News:
There is no current news of any additional injury problems or suspension concerns for Paul Lambert so it could be a similar team selected for this clash to the one defeated away to Cardiff. The biggest question mark seems to surround Wes Hoolahan. The level of expectancy surrounding midfielder Wes Hoolahan is too high according to Norwich City boss Paul Lambert. The 28-year-old was dropped for the first time in the league this season in the recent game at home to Middlesbrough, a match they won 1-0. He did however return for the Cardiff match last Saturday, a game they lost 3-1? So will he feature against Burnley?
Lambert recently told BBC Radio Norfolk:
‘Everyone keeps looking to him to perform week-in, week-out and it’s tough. Maybe I do that myself.
‘Every time he gets the ball you think he’s going to create something which is unfair on him.’
So let`s get this right then. Lambert is dropping Hoolahan because he is too good? Yeah right, he will play against us on Saturday, pound to a penny!
Player to watch: Wes Hoolahan
The big question is whether Wes Hoolahan will play (see Norwich Team News above) but if he does the 28 year old, Republic of Ireland International left winger and attacking midfielder will need to be watched on Saturday. Norwich have played him at the tip of a diamond formation for the last two seasons and he is not averse to scoring himself. There are no Norwich strikers in the top 15 of the Npower Championship Top Scorers but Hoolahan already has four league goals to his name.
Clarets fans will remember Hoolahan from his Blackpool days. He moved to Norwich City in June 2008 signing a three-year contract for an undisclosed fee (believed to be £250,000) in a player-plus-cash deal that also saw Canaries keeper, Matthew Gilks move in the opposite direction.
Burnley Team News:
There is no news of any fresh injury concerns for Brian Laws ahead of this clash and hopefully all the players affected by the mystery stomach bug will have now fully recovered. Apart from our long-term casualty, Chris McCann, Laws appears to have the whole squad available for selection with no suspensions to worry about either.
Player to watch: Jay Rodriguez
JayRod seems to be able to do anything but score these days with countless scoring opportunities in the last two games against Villa and QPR. Woodwork and on-form keepers mainly have so far denied our local-born striker. He badly needs a goal or two to reward his effort and boost his confidence. Hopefully he will be given his chance against the Canaries and come up trumps!
Team & Tactics
A mystery stomach bug felled some of our players ahead of our last game away to QPR so we have to hope they have now all fully recovered. It looks like Lee Grant though is now being given his chance between the sticks after making his league debut for Burnley at Loftus Road last Saturday thus denying Brian Jensen his 100th consecutive league appearance for the Clarets. That decision seems a tadge unfair on Jensen who let`s be honest has not really made any costly blunders of late and has made some impressive saves to keep us in the game. Laws though, this week has hinted at a keeper rotation policy to keep them both on their toes.
There were quite a few changes to the team last Saturday and it is not clear which were tactical and which were enforced due to this stomach bug doing the rounds. Andre Bikey, dropped to the bench against QPR might have a job wresting back his position in the centre of defence from either Michael Duff or Clarke Carlisle. These two were as solid as a rock against the Rs with both candidates for the Man of the Match award.
Graham Alexander also returned to the starting eleven against QPR and of course our captain also got his ‘penalty king` title back after getting the equaliser from the spot. Will he keep his holding midfield role against the Canaries and if so will Jack Cork once more be denied a place in midfield having to be content with a place on the bench? I hope if Grezza does play, a position for Cork can be found in the team. He is a playmaker and I don`t think we can afford to keep him sidelined. Laws though will certainly have plenty of options in the engine room with Dean Marney impressive against QPR and Wade Elliott always ready and able to pop up and score.
It is very difficult to know how Laws will play this one with so many options available. Will he revert more to the line-up he selected for the Reading match or will he keep a number of the players tried out last week against QPR? We don`t appear to have any new injury worries and if the stomach bug is now a thing of the past, Brian Laws may have a selection headache trying to keep everybody happy. I suspect he will show more loyalty to the eighteen he selected for the QPR match in light of the good result and performance.
Expect something looking like this:
Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox, Alexander (or Cork), Eagles, Marney, Elliott, Rodriguez, Iwelumo
Subs: Jensen, Bikey, Cort, Cork (or Alexander), Wallace, Paterson, Thompson
Berkshire referee, Trevor Kettle is in charge of this one. He started refereeing in 1983, reaching the National List of assistant referees in 1998, was a SG assistant for a further four years until his promotion to the National List of Referees in 2003. His card count so far this season includes 3 red cards in just ten games, not to mention 38 yellow cards! Strewth is this a case of Kettle calling Potty?
How many times have I said this season that we have to win away sometime? This clash is no different since we still await that first elusive win on the road in the Championship. We just have to keep playing like we did against QPR last Saturday and surely those first three points will be in the bag? We just need a bit more luck but also some clinical finishing to put these games to bed. I will go for a 2-1 Clarets victory but it won`t be easy not that any games are in the Championship.
We have two crucial home games coming up after the Canaries match. First Doncaster Rovers are the visitors to Turf Moor on the night of Tuesday 9th November (Kick-Off 7:45pm) and then the following Saturday Watford are in town (13th November Kick-Off: 3pm)