Date: 17th March 2012 at 12:43pm
Written by:

We have not managed to win any of our last three games playing the animal kingdom. Will our game against the Bluebirds at the Cardiff City Stadium this Sunday be any different?

The Pre-amble:

Burnley unusually play on a Sunday this week when they travel to the Cardiff City Stadium to take on the promotion-chasing Bluebirds. Football has taken a back seat in Cardiff this Saturday. The Principality has another sport on its mind The Wales Rugby team will be attempting to beat France to claim a Grand Slam and win the Six Nations title.

The Clarets at the moment sit in 14th spot on 48 points from 35 games. We are now nine points behind the current sixth placed club, Hull City and the gap could be even wider depending on how the other Championship games pan out this Saturday. Our play-offs hopes look to be over although there are of course plenty of points still on offer. After the Cardiff clash, Burnley will have 10 games of the season remaining and thirty points to fight for so who knows a remarkable run could still see the Clarets finish in the top six. Our recent form though with just one win in seven games suggests this will be a uphill task and to be honest we have suffered from inconsistency all season despite a few false dawns and some remarkable results against top class, promotion chasing opposition.

Apart from the fantastic achievement of our Youth team reaching the FA Youth Cup semi-final for the first time since 1968, there has been very little for Clarets fans to cheer about in recent times. There was also the recent sad news that Eddie Howe had lost his mother and he was on compassionate leave last Saturday with Jason Tindall taking over for our game at home to Crystal Palace. Somehow that disappointing draw against the Eagles just sums things up at the moment and we have now gone four games without a win virtually killing off any hope of reaching the play-offs The performances to be honest have been poor and Eddie Howe who returns this Sunday will be looking to reverse the recent trend and get the side back to winning ways.

It certainly won`t be easy against a Cardiff City side still in the promotion hunt. They too though have suffered a recent dip in form and Malky Mackay will be hoping the traditional Cardiff slump towards the end of the season is not about to repeat itself yet again. They have now won just two of their last nine games and the loss of momentum will be a real concern for Mackay

Cardiff are currently in 7th spot just behind Hull on goal difference having played a game more although that could change depending on Saturday`s results. They lost 3-0 at home to the Tigers in midweek and previously lost 2-0 at home to West Ham in the Championship so they will be hoping to make amends and avoid a third successive defeat at home when they play against the Clarets this Sunday.

The Bluebirds have been on a bit of low since losing the Carling Cup Final on penalties against Liverpool at Wembley although they have been boosted by their away form picking up three points against Bristol City and a point away to Brighton in their last games on the road. Burnley though will be keen to exploit Cardiff`s poor home form at the moment and try and inflict a forth defeat in five games on home soil for the Welsh side. That would certainly also be some revenge for the defeat we suffered only recently on this ground after they knocked us out of the Carling Cup following their 1-0 fourth round victory over the Clarets back in October last year.

Cardiff City Team News:

Bluebirds striker Rudy Gestede misses out with a hamstring strain. Robert Earnshaw could now come into contention.

Midfielder Stephen McPhail is back in training after illness but he looks unlikely to feature against the Clarets.

Malky Mackay has also confirmed that Slovenia midfielder Haris Vuckic will not be completing his season-long loan deal after being recalled back by parent club, Newscastle this week.

Player to watch: Peter Whittingham

Whittingham has come a long way since his somewhat unconvincing loan spell at Turf Moor back in 2005 when he played just seven games for the Clarets. He was on Aston Villa`s books in those days but in January 2007 was transferred to Cardiff City for a reported fee of £350,000. The 27 year old midfielder and former England Under 21 international has now notched up over 215 games for the Bluebirds and scored over 50 goals for them club. He started his career as a left winger before developing into a central midfielder. Whiitingham is most effective on the left of midfield playing in a 4-3-3 formation.

This season he is actually Cardiff`s top goal-scorer so far with 11 goals in all competitions; not bad for a midfielder!

Burnley Team News:

Jay Rodriguez appears to be Eddie Howe`s only injury concern. He was taken off at half-time against Crystal Palace suffering from a sore groin. Reports in midweek suggested he had a 50:50 chance of playing and he now faces a late fitness test.

Junior Stanislas could also make his first start for two months after recovering from a hamstring problem and coming on as a substitute against Palace last week

Player to watch: Danny Ings

Ings was some fans man of the match in our last game against Palace and he does seem to be improving each time he plays following his debut after returning from injury last month. A goal really would do him a power of good. With so many strikers vying for a starting eleven slot, Ings has probably done enough to keep his place based on recent performances and he now needs to consolidate the faith shown in him by hitting the back of the net.

Team & Tactics:

All Clarets fans will be hoping Jay Rodriguez passes his late fitness test. If he is still in contention, he is probably the only striker you could name with some certainty in the starting eleven. We certainly have no shortage of options up front with Paterson, Ings, Austin, McQuoid and Hines but after recent team line-ups, it is difficult to predict who would make a start. Junior Stanislas is also now fit again giving Eddie Howe options on the wing. I would like to see him start. . He only played for the last twelve minutes of that match but looked lively and sharp. Our form in general seems to have taken a dive since he became unavailable so it will be interesting to see whether that was just co-incidence.

The back four almost picks itself these days unless we have any injuries or suspensions. In our last game we did not even have any defensive cover on the bench, but I suspect Easton could make a return on Sunday with one of the strikers missing out. That striker might even be Austin who was dropped to the bench for the Palace game and did little when he came on for a fifteen minute spell in the second half.

Although we do have options, I will plump for the following sixteen:

Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Duff, Mee, Wallace, Marney, McCann, Stanislas, Rodriguez (Paterson if not fit), Ings

Subs: Jensen, Easton, Bartley, Paterson, McQuoid (or Austin)

Ref Watch:

Berkshire referee, Iain Williamson is in charge of this match. His last game involving the Clarets was our match against QPR at Loftus Road last season.

His 25 games so far this season have produced just 2 red and 78 yellow cards.

Match Prediction:

This is one tough game. Burnley still have an outside chance of reaching the play-offs but what are they thinking in their heart-of-hearts? Recent results and performances have not been that encouraging, so why should we believe it will be any better against the Bluebirds? Cardiff on the other hand currently 7th, despite a recent dip in form are still in the mix for a play-offs spot and this is never an easy place to visit. Remarkably we still await our first away draw of the season. Could we achieve it against Cardiff? Well that would be some statistic if we did considering the last time we got that away point was in a 1-1 draw against the very same club! We drew 1-1 against the Bluebirds in the Cardiff City Stadium back in February last season. 1-1 it is then!!

Let history repeat itself! Indeed if the result is 1-1 that will be the fourth time in a row. The last three league meetings have all been 1-1 draws.

Next Match:

We play Ipswich Town at Portman Road on the night of Wednesday 21st March (Kick-Off 7:45 pm) before returning to Turf Moor on Saturday 24th March for a clash against currently fourth placed club, West Ham. (Kick-Off 3pm)