The Clarets face Liverpool at Turf Moor this Sunday in the penultimate home game of the season. A defeat and it could be all over for the Clarets. Burnley are currently second from bottom just one point behind Hull but crucially four points behind West Ham in 17th. All three clubs have now played the same number of games following Hull`s 2-0 home defeat to Villa in midweek and have each just three games of the season remaining.
We could be relegated back down to the Championship after just one season in the Premier League if West Ham win their game against Wigan at Upton Park today and we lose or draw tomorrow.
I will leave it to Brian Laws to sum up the importance of this game. Although perhaps stating the blindingly obvious he said this week:
“It`s all or nothing! There is no room for error. The pressure will definitely be on after (today`s) results because it will tell us exactly what we`ve got to do. There might not be another bite of the cherry. This is the big weekend for us. “
Yes, it bloody is so come on you Clarets; let`s have some passion and fight. Thirty three years it has taken to get back in the top flight so don`t give up just yet no matter what West Ham achieve today!
Predicted Team Sheet
Chris Eagles standing in for the injured Nugent last Saturday against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light had a very poor game on the wing. I suspect Laws might be tempted to drop him back down to the bench if Nugent has recovered from his hamstring injury.
I have some concerns about playing our recognised strikers in a wider role and Paterson last week was totally ineffective down the flank and was substituted at half-time. There is a case perhaps for playing Thompson up front. He has looked quite effective in recent games coming on from the bench but he might not have done enough to secure a starting eleven place.
It will also be interesting to see if Brian Laws is tempted to include Kevin McDonald in the eighteen. He has not featured since being fined for his naughty boy antics during the Manchester City game after being substituted and bombing off down the pub at half-time. McDonald is certainly keen to return to action in the first team and featured in the second string 2-2 draw against Wigan Reserves in midweek
I expect though that Laws will not make too many changes to the eighteen that lost 2-1 to Sunderland last Saturday and will predict the following:
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Cort, Fox, Alexander, Elliott, Cork, Paterson, Fletcher, Nugent
Subs: Weaver, Jordan, Caldwell, Bikey or McDonald, Blake, Eagles, Thompson
Burnley Team News:
Chris McCann is making good progress after his operation to repair his cartilage. The club are still hopeful he could make an appearance before the end of the season but the Liverpool game comes too early.
One player who also looks likely to miss out is Clarke Carlisle. He went over on his ankle in training this week and is currently under treatment but Laws believes he is doubtful for the Liverpool game.
David Nugent picked up a tight hamstring last week and missed the game at the Stadium of Light. He is believed to back in full training today (Saturday) though and should be fit to play tomorrow.
Player to watch: Steven Fletcher
We simply have to score goals in this game if we are to survive the drop. All eyes therefore will be on our top scorer, Steven Fletcher and there will be no room for fluffing any chances in this game. Fletcher sometimes can`t seem to hit a barn door from five yards and other times can be breathtaking and effective in front of goal. We have to hope the latter player turns up on Sunday!
Fletcher`s form does not appear to have been as good since he broke a bone in his hand although he did score in our last game at Turf Moor albeit a consolation goal in the 6-1 drubbing by Manchester City. That goal was his tenth this season and we need to ensure he adds to that tally on Sunday.
Liverpool Team News:
Their leading goal-scorer Fernando Torres has been ruled out for the rest of the season after a knee operation.
Liverpool`s resources up front have been further stretched after David Ngog complained of a back problem in their Europa League defeat by Atletico Madrid in midweek. The 21-year-old Frenchman was substituted in the second half as a precaution and may not be fit enough to play against the Clarets. Dirk Kuyt could play as a striker if Ngog is ruled out.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez also has a number of defenders injured. Emiliano Insua (thigh muscle strain), Fabio Aurelio (thigh), Martin Skrtel (ankle) and Martin Kelly (cartilage) are all still sidelined.
Maxi Rodriguez though is available in midfield after being ineligible to play in Europe.
Player to watch: Yossi Benayoun
Yossi Benayoun completed a £5 million move from West Ham to Liverpool in July 2007 after signing a four-year contract.
The Clarets already know to their cost the threat posed by the 29 year old Israeli international winger and attacking midfielder. He scored his first Premier League hat-trick for Liverpool in a 4-0 win against Burnley in the match at Anfield this season back in September last year.
Back to the Future
The last time we beat Liverpool at Turf Moor was a memorable FA Cup third round clash on the night of 18th January 2005. Rafa Benitez underestimated Steve Cotterill`s men and decided to field a weakened team. The only player still remaining from either of the sides that played that night is Brian Jensen and he looks likely to play against them again this Sunday.
The Clarets team that night was as follows:
Jensen, Sinclair, Cahill, McGreal, Camara, Hyde, Grant, Roche, Chaplow, Valois, Moore
The game will be remembered for a comical own goal by Djimi Traore in the 51st minute, the only goal of the game that gave the Clarets a 1-0 victory
We have not beaten Liverpool at Turf Moor in a League game since December 1973. On Boxing Day 1973 in front of a crowd of 24,000 we beat Liverpool 2-1. Paul Fletcher scored after just 3 minutes of play before they equalised in the 84th minute. They must have thought they had done enough to earn a point before Hankin popped up to score a minute later and secure both points.
In 1975-76, the year we were relegated from the top flight never to return for another 33 years, not only did we play them in the league but also knocked them out of the League Cup.
We drew 1-1 at Anfield and in the third-round replay at Turf Moor on the Tuesday night of 14th October 1975 came out winners 1-0 in front of a 20,022 crowd. Peter Noble scored from the spot in the 44th minute and indeed a week earlier also scored in the game at Anfield after 48 minutes. Liverpool had been runners-up the season before and were destined to be Champions by the end of the 1975-76 season so this was no mean achievement although we were lucky to win. Jimmy Adamson in his programme notes said of the match ‘We did not play well by any stretch of the imagination and were lucky to win but this only balanced up some bad fortune on two or three recent occasions’
The league match against Liverpool in that season at Turf Moor took place on Saturday December 6th 1975 just a few weeks before Adamson resigned to be replaced by Joe Brown. The game played in front of an 18425 crowd finished 0-0 and that day we lined up as follows:
Peyton, Scott, Newton, Ingham, Waldron, Thomson, Summerbee, Kennerley, Hankin, Flynn, Bradshaw .Sub: Loggie (Did not get on!)
In the return leg at Anfield, played in front of 36708 fans on Saturday 27th March 1976, we lost 2-0. Our team that night was:
Peyton, Docherty, Newton, Noble, Waldron, Rodaway, Morley, Flynn, Hankin, Fletcher, Summerbee. Sub: Ingham (Did not get on!)
It would also prove to be Colin Waldron`s last game for the club. He was given a free transfer at the end of the season and joined Manchester United.
Clarets fans will instantly want to forget our last game against Liverpool. That was earlier this season in the Premier League clash at Anfield last September. We were completely outplayed and lost 4-0 with Yossi Benayoun getting a hat-trick (his third of his Liverpool career and first in the Premier League). Benayoun opened the scoring after 27 minutes with Kuyt getting the second of their goals four minutes before the end of the first half. They led 2-0 at half-time before Benayoun got a couple more goals in the second half after 61 and 82 minutes to complete a miserable day for the travelling faithful.
West Yorkshire referee, Martin Atkinson will take charge of this one
Atkinson was appointed to the Select Group Referees list in 2005. A year later, in 2006, he was appointed to the FIFA International Referees list
Clarets fans will be hoping this is a good omen considering he was the referee in our recent game away to Hull City although I am not sure we could expect to beat Liverpool 4-1 as well! This will be the fourth time he has been in charge of a Clarets league match this season with the other three all away games. As well as Hull he was also referee in our games at Molineux and the Reebok.
The Clarets could go into this game knowing that if they don`t win they are relegated. If West Ham beat Wigan in the Saturday game at Upton Park only a Burnley win against Liverpool would keep our survival hopes alive. A win for the Hammers would put them seven points clear and with their vastly superior goal difference a draw or defeat against Liverpool would mean curtains for the Clarets with just two games to play and six points available.
There will be pressure on the Clarets in this game no matter what the score at Upton Park and so many times lately we have talked about ‘must-win` games and last chance saloon. They all pale into insignificance compared to this one.
Liverpool affected by the Iceland volcano and grounding of aircraft had a gruelling 1,200-mile journey by land across Europe in midweek for their Europa League semi-final first-leg against Atletico Madrid. They also lost the match 1-0 so could be both mentally and physically drained for our clash on Sunday. They will also be without their talisman, leading goal scorer, Torres who is out injured for the rest of the season.
Rafael Benitez`s men have had an inconsistent and disappointing season by their standards. They are currently in 7th spot already 5 points behind Tottenham in the coveted 4th place having played a game more. Although they are still mathematically in with a chance of finishing 4th, they must clearly know their chances are slim and hopefully that will pray on their mind at Turf Moor.
The Clarets will also be hoping to take advantage of Liverpool`s recent poor away form , Liverpool have not won now in their last seven away league matches and are still looking for their first win on the road in 2010.
Let`s face it; despite all the above facts and stats, this will still be a very, very hard game for the Clarets.
The difference in depth of quality between the two sides on paper is breathtaking. We have to hope the right team turns up with the right mental attitude and passion. It will certainly be curtains if there is any repeat of the performance we put in our last two home games at Turf Moor against Rovers and City.
The Clarets have to dig deep once again and somehow find that ‘Fortress Turf Moor` spirit that has deserted them in recent times. Come on let`s do it! 2-1 Clarets!!
Our last away game of the season will be a trip to St Andrews to play Birmingham on Saturday 1st May. The match will now be televised live by Sky Sports with the scheduled kick-off changed from 3pm to 12:45pm. All Clarets fans will be hoping our battle to avoid relegation will still be on.