Date: 1st January 2010 at 2:21pm
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The Clarets kick-off their FA Cup campaign this Saturday and travel to the land of concrete cows and roundabouts. Yes it`s off to Milton Keynes for this FA Cup third round clash and a game against MK Dons at the Moo Camp (sorry stadium: mk)

The League One side, have certainly had a controversial life in their short history with many football fans still being up in arms over their original formation from the remnants of Wimbledon FC back in 2004. Let`s all move on now though, MK Dons are here to stay. They have their own fan base and in May 2009 stadium:mk was named as one of 15 stadia put forward as potential hosts for the England World Cup Finals bid.

This in many ways is an intriguing tie for the Clarets and it is always nice to visit a new ground. We have never played against MK Dons as such although we were the first to play Wimbledon in their new home of Milton Keynes in the National Hockey Stadium but more of that later!

Paul Ince`s side are pushing for promotion from League One this season and are currently in 8th spot just two points off the play-offs places. Last season they narrowly missed out on promotion being knocked out in the semi-final stages of the Play-Offs by Scunthorpe after finishing in 3rd spot. They will not be pushovers by any means and we have to hope this is not a banana skin waiting to happen.

Predicted Team Sheet

This is a difficult one to call. It is not clear whether Coyle will put out a full strength team or whether he will give some of the fringe players a run out. It all depends what importance Owen Coyle puts behind advancing in this competition bearing in mind our much more important priority of achieving survival in the Premier League.

We do know that Tyrone Mears and Stephen Jordan will be suspended for this match. Their bookings against Everton in our last match with Jordan being sent off for a second bookable offence and Mears picking up a fifth yellow card for the season seems to have worked in our favour in the sense they will now both be available for our more important League game against Stoke City at Turf Moor a week on Saturday.

With both full-backs sidelined, we could see young Eckersley given his chance at right back with either Kalvenes or Easton slotting in at left back. Our captain, Steven Caldwell is also sidelined with a persistent groin injury and he has been out of action since limping off in our recent match against Wolves at Molineux. News this week suggests he could be out of contention for the next 3-4 weeks. Clarke Carlisle in the same match against Wolves also limped off with a similar groin problem but there is better news on his progress. He is currently back in training and could be in contention for the cup clash.

Cameroon international, Andre Bikey will also be available for selection having been given permission by Cameroon to delay his attendance in Angola as they prepare for the African Nations Cup due to start later this month. Bikey has returned to the back four recently for the Clarets following the injuries to Carlisle and Caldwell and it will be interesting to see if Coyle will select him once more in the centre of defence or whether he might be tempted to use him in the midfield role again.

Coyle has numerous options for the central defence pairing. Duff and Bikey have performed well together recently but with Carlisle in contention either one of them could be dropped. David Edgar has also been on the bench for the last two games and Coyle might be tempted to give him a run-out or at least again have him available in the eighteen. One option might be to play Duff at right back and have a central pairing selected from Carlisle, Bikey and Edgar.

Owen Coyle is also on record saying he would like David Nugent to be available for this clash, but they need Portsmouth`s permission to play the on-loan striker and await confirmation either way.

Regarding our long-term injuries, both Martin Paterson and Chris McCann returned to first team training this week but they are not expected to be fit enough for the MK Dons match. Jay Rodriguez is still a little way behind the other two but is recovering well from his broken ankle.

There are far too many options to predict a team with much confidence but I would think the starting eleven will be a blend of experience and youth whilst giving the opportunity to a few of our fringe players to shine and make an impression. In case things don`t start going to plan, we will probably have a few heavyweights on the bench to come on and try and rescue the situation.

I will go with the following in a 4-4-2 formation:

Penny, Eckersley, Duff, Bikey, Kalvenes, Guerrero, McDonald, Elliott, Blake, Fletcher, Thompson

Subs from: Jensen, Alexander, Edgar, Easton, Carlisle, MacDonald, Gudjonsson, Eagles, Nugent (if available)

Milton Keynes Dons Team News:

Nigel Quashie under the terms of his loan deal from West Ham will not be eligible to play but winger Jason Puncheon returns after a one-match suspension.

Former Clarets loan, Luke Chadwick (arm) and David McCracken (calf) are doubtful.

Jermaine Easter will also be hoping for a return to the starting eleven after coming on from the bench last time round.

Player to watch: Jermaine Easter

The 27 year old Welsh international forward is currently MK Dons leading goal scorer with 10 goals in League One this season so far.

The former Plymouth striker joined Milton Keynes Dons in July 2009 on a two year contract for an undisclosed fee and became Paul Ince’s second signing in his second spell at the club as manager.

Burnley Team News:

Mears (five yellows) and Jordan (automatic one match ban for second bookable offence) are suspended and Caldwell is sidelined with a groin injury. The clubs await news on whether Pompey will allow Nugent to feature.

Clarke Carlisle returned to training this week and looks to be in contention for a place after recovering from a groin strain.

Player to watch: Steven Fletcher

Fletcher has not looked too confident in front of goal recently and missed quite a few sitters by scuffing his shots or firing high and wide. A couple of goals against MK Dons this Saturday would do his confidence no end of good.

Back to the Future

We have previously mentioned that the Clarets have never played MK Dons although we have played them when they were still called Wimbledon at the National Hockey Stadium, their first home in Milton Keynes. In fact we were the first club to play them there.

For those of you that don`t know the history of the Wimbledon/MK Dons saga here is the background. During 2003-04 Wimbledon F.C was in the hands of the administrators and consequently a number of their players had to be sold with the club at the end of the season being relegated to League One. In the summer of 2003, the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes was converted for use as a football stadium and in September of that year Wimbledon FC moved to their new home causing a furore amongst football fans in general not least of course Wimbledon fans who now had to traipse miles to see their team to a ground no longer based anywhere near Wimbledon despite the team still having the same name. In June 2004, a company called Inter Mk Ltd brought the club out of administration. The Chairman of the company, Pete Winkelman having bought the football club announced he was changing the name of the club to Milton Keynes Dons, known to most fans now as MK Dons. Further changes followed to both the club`s colours and their club badge which effectively broke all links with the Wimbledon FC of old and their fans.

The lease on the National Hockey stadium expired in May 2007 and two months later the club played their first game in their new 22,000 seater, stadium:mk near Denbigh on the outskirts of Milton Keynes. Also that year Milton Keynes Dons transferred the replica trophies and all Wimbledon F.C. memorabilia to the London Borough of Merton. The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) also eventually announced that the supporters of Milton Keynes Dons F.C. would be permitted to become members of the federation, and that it would no longer appeal to the supporters of other clubs to boycott MK Dons matches. There is still some bitterness though amongst fans and some just can`t seem to let go and recognise MK Dons in their own right preferring instead to refer to them still as the ‘franchise`. Time to grow up and move on methinks!

Anyway, we said earlier that Burnley did actually play Wimbledon at the National Hockey Stadium so we will provide a little bit of history about that match. The club’s first ever game in Milton Keynes, then in the guise of Wimbledon, was against the Clarets in 2003. The match was played on Saturday 27th September 2003 in front of a crowd of just 5,639 fans. The Wimbledon side that day contained some players in the team that would make a name for themselves in the future including Nigel Reo-Coker, Jobi McAnuff and Patrick Agyemang. The Clarets were 2-0 up in the first half thanks to a brace of goals from Robbie Blake after 21 and 37 minutes. Wimbledon though fought back in the second half to earn a draw with the score finishing 2-2. Agyemang pulled one back after 66 minutes and then veteran striker Dean Holdsworth got their equaliser just five minutes later. In the nervy return match at Turf Moor on the 20th April 2004 with the Clarets trying to avoid the drop we beat them 2-0. Branch got the first goal after 26 minutes and on the stroke of half-time, an own goal by Wimbledon`s Ntimban-Zeh ensured a Clarets victory. Both teams struggled that season with the Clarets eventually avoiding relegation from the Championship in 19th place and saying goodbye to their manager, Stan Ternent at the end of the season. Wimbledon though finished rock-bottom with just eight wins all season and the rest as they say was history.

Ref Watch:

Tony Bates (Staffordshire)

Match Prediction:

This is not the time for banana skins and a thumping win would set us up nicely in our first game of the New Year. We should be far too strong for MK Dons and I will go with a 3-0 victory. We certainly could do without a draw and a replay in this game but if that`s the way it finishes, MK Dons will be coming to Turf Moor on Tuesday 12th January (7:45pm Kick-Off)

Next Match

We get back to our top flight survival campaign in the Premier League with a crucial game against fellow strugglers Stoke City at Turf Moor on Saturday January 9th 2010 (3pm Kick-Off)