The Clarets face Reading at Turf Moor this Saturday and will hopefully be refreshed and raring to go after the International break.
Burnley are now undefeated in their last three league games. A well-earned point in a 1-1 draw at home to league leaders, Southampton was followed by a stonking 5-1 demolition of Nottingham Forest on the hallowed Turf before we then went to South Bermondsey a week last Saturday to inflict a 1-0 defeat on the Lions in the Den stadium. The victory against Millwall was particularly pleasing. It was our first back-to-back win in the Championship since April and at long last at our 24th attempt in all competitions we managed to keep a clean sheet!
The team is beginning to look more and more settled and is now playing with more conviction and consistency. We have to hope that the International break has not had any adverse effects of our focus and momentum and that we can now continue our upward path with another victory on Saturday. Reading are the visitors to Turf Moor and all Clarets fans will be hoping for payback time since they thumped us 4-0 on our home soil last season and indeed got the double over us after also beating us 2-1 in the Madejski Stadium.
The two clubs, based on their league standings are evenly matched at the moment. Burnley moved up to 14th after their win against Millwall and now have 12 points from nine matches. Reading are just behind us in 15th spot on the same number of points. Our goal difference is better albeit by only one goal but more importantly Reading have played a game more. We have in fact a one game advantage over most of the Championship clubs and if we had played and won the postponed game against Birmingham at St Andrews we would now be just two points away from the play-offs spots.
Reading, by their standards, will have been disappointed by their start to the season and their current league position. The Royals of course reached the play-offs final last season at Wembley but went down 4-2 in the end to Swansea. This season things have not gone according to plan for manager, Brian McDermott. Their home form appears to have suffered and they have won just one of their five matches at the Madejski. Their away form if anything is slightly better with two wins on the road so far against highly-fancied Leicester City and struggling Bristol City. We do need to be on our guard on Saturday against a team showing such inconsistency. Their victory over the Robins at Ashton Gate was their last outing on the road and they followed that up with a creditable 0-0 draw against high-flying Middlesbrough at home before the International break. They will think they can get something from the game on Saturday and we have to make sure they don`t!
The form book seems to be no help in predicting the outcome of this game but in many ways if Burnley could win this one, it could really kick-start our promotion hopes and give belief back to the fans. A draw and certainly a defeat will only be viewed as a setback and confirm the general feeling still that at best we are doomed to mid-table mediocrity.
Burnley Team News:
As long as David Edgar and Alex MacDonald return unscathed from international duty this week, Eddie Howe looks set to be able to name a similar sixteen to the last three games.
There has also been recent news concerning our long-term injured. Martin Paterson has now resumed light training but is someway away from making a return to the first team. Pato suffered a recurrence of a thigh injury in the opening game of the season against Watford. Scans revealed a Grade Two tear which looked likely to sideline the striker for up to three-months. However Paterson was sent for a revolutionary blood injection treatment, known as platelet-rich plasma (PRP), to try to speed up the healing process and it would appear to have worked to some degree. The treatment required complete rest for a month so it is now good to see Pato back on the training ground. Howe though won`t be rushed into bringing back Paterson too early. The gaffer recently said:
“Pato is back on grass and is running again. He`s made good progress since his injury but he`s going to take a little bit longer to make sure that his thigh is fully recovered.
“With Pato previously we`ve been quite reluctant to set targets.
“We`re going to give him all the time he needs”
Danny Ings is also making good progress. The striker has yet to make his debut for the Clarets after signing from Bournemouth in the summer. The 19 year old suffered a cartilage injury during training just a few days after coming to Turf Moor. The injury required surgery but the good news now is that after a recent appointment and assessment, the specialist has confirmed that the striker can speed up his recovery programme. His knee is still in a brace but Howe is now confident that they will be able to make rapid progress once he gets back on the grass. He looks likely to make a comeback later this season but at least the news is encouraging and his return could be sooner rather than later.
Another casualty has been defender, Michael Duff. Duff picked up a knee injury in our Carling Cup game against Barnet back in August and has been sidelined since. He too is making a good recovery and the International break will have helped that process. He is already back running on grass and Howe believes he is not too far away from being available for first team selection again. The match against Reading though is probably a little too early for consideration.
Brian Jensen, who limped off with a groin injury in the away defeat against Peterborough is still on the road to recovery and looks unlikely to be fit in time for the Reading clash.
The International break will also have been good for a few players with niggling injuries and below par fitness levels including Keith Treacy who recently suffered a hamstring injury and Junior Stanislas who has been in the wars recently with both a hamstring and a dead leg. Both however did play in the last match against Millwall so hopefully the additional rest will have done both players a power of good.
Player to watch: Andre Amougou
The Reading fans might be unaware from the team sheet that Andre Amougou is their former player formerly known as Bikey! His haircut has changed somewhat since those Reading days too so they may not recognise him! Burnley fans will though and he is rapidly making the centre back position his own following a return to the starting eleven against MK Dons last month.
He was head-and-shoulders above the rest in our last game away to Millwall and was our man of the match and star player. Solid in defence, commanding in the back four, Amougou would be my choice for captain at the moment with his experience in our generally youthful side being invaluable. Let`s hope he continues his good form against his former club on Saturday. We have to hope he has also ditched those ‘Bikey Moments`; the ones that give all Clarets fans palpitations at times and the ones that no doubt kept him sidelined on the bench in the earlier part of the season.
Reading Team News:
Royals` winger, Jimmy Kebe could return from injury on Saturday against the Clarets. The Malian has been sidelined the last three games with a knee problem. Another Reading winger, 17 year old Jordan Obita is also working his way back into training. 18 year old midfielder, Lawson D`Ath remains sidelined.
McDermott will also be hoping all eight of his players on International duty this week will return free from injury or suspension ahead of Saturday`s game. We will let you know if that`s not the case! Remarkably, five of their players on International duty this week, Adam Federici (Australia), Simon Church and Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales), Kaspars Gorkss (Latvia) and Mikele Leigertwood (Antigua & Barbuda) also played for Reading in their last game before the international break at home to Boro and all would appear crucial to McDermott`s plans for Saturday.
Player to watch: Adam Le Fondre
Adam Le Fondre signed from Rotherham United for £350,000 in August 2011 penning a three-year contract for the Royals. He stated his career with his hometown club, Stockport County before joining Rockdale in July 2007 following a loan spell. Rotherham signed him in August 2009 for an undisclosed fee and he rapidly became a crowd favourite scoring 54 times in 96 appearances for the Millers. His goal-scoring rate of virtually 1-in-2 games was enough to attract the attention of the Royals and so far this season the 24 year old has bagged two goals for Reading. The Vital Reading site recently awarded him their player of the month award for September extolling his virtues and congratulating him after making a successful two league step-up.
Team & Tactics:
David Edgar will return from international duty this week after flying across the pond to play for Canada. Canada face Puerto Rico in Toronto on Tuesday night in a CONCACAF World Cup 2014 qualifier and Edgar could feature in that game after making the starting eleven and playing the full 90 minutes in Canada`s previous game away to St Lucia last week. The defender helped Canada keep a clean sheet in the CONCACAF qualifier and they romped home 7-0. If he does play on Tuesday, we will have to hope he comes through the game unscathed and that also he is not too jetlagged on his return ahead of Saturday`s match.
Eddie Howe though may take the view in any case that Edgar needs a rest. Edgar has recently also been the weakest player in our back four to be honest although has not performed that badly. This however could be an opportunity for Ben Mee to regain his place in the starting eleven. The on-loan Manchester City defender has had to be content with a place on the bench since recovering from a head injury after being knocked unconscious in the away defeat to Posh but Howe might now be tempted to start him against the Royals.
There is some news this week that we may have a new loan signing on board by the time we face Reading on Saturday although reading between the lines, it is likely the player will be brought in to supplement the squad in case of further injuries rather than be expected to go straight into the first team.
I suspect that Eddie Howe will be tempted to remain loyal with the starting eleven that did so well against Millwall before the break and indeed we could see the same sixteen for the Royals clash.
I think I would be tempted though to make just one change and see how well a centre back pairing of Mee and Amougou would fare. Edgar would probably benefit from a rest anyway after his International exploits and gruelling travel schedule.
My line-up therefore would be as follows:
Grant, Trippier, Amougou, Mee, Easton, Stanislas, McCann, Bartley, Wallace, Rodriguez, Austin
Subs: Stewart, Edgar, Marney, Treacy, Hines
Reading are no great shakes at the moment although they did beat bottom club, Bristol City 3-2 recently in their last away game. This is just the sort of game where we have to make our home advantage count. We were on a bit of a roll before the International break and we have to hope we can quickly get back in our stride after the rest. If we continue to play the way we have in our last three games, we should be too strong for the Royals. I am feeling particularly positive at the moment and a nice 3-0 win will set us up nicely for the two away games to follow. 3-0 it is then!
A battle at Oakwell follows against Barrnsley on the night of Tuesday 18th October (Kick-Off 7:45pm) before we continue on our travels to play Coventry City at the Ricoh the following Saturday on October 22nd (Kick-Off 3pm)