The Clarets return to League duty this Saturday following the International break and we will entertain Preston in the first Lancashire derby of the season.
Burnley will be hoping to return to winning ways after our first defeat of the season away to Swansea City two weeks ago and what better way to do so than against our Lancashire rivals.
Burnley have made a solid start to the season with two wins and one draw from their four league matches with just that one defeat in our last match against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. We are nicely placed in 5th spot with seven points just three points behind the top three clubs. QPR, Cardiff and Ipswich currently occupy the top three spots with just goal difference separating them.
A win on Saturday is therefore vital not just to keep us in contention but also to keep the rising momentum of Brian Laws popularity going amongst Clarets fans. A win against Preston, especially if it`s a convincing one could almost give Laws hero-worship status especially if he can follow that up with a win against Bolton at Turf Moor in the Carling Cup Third Round clash later this month.
It has to be said though we have not played that convincingly to date with consistency being the main problem.
At times we look unstoppable but in contrast sometimes we also look woeful and clueless in defence and midfield. We have generally been lucky in our opening few games, picking up points despite putting in indifferent performances but that bubble burst in our last game away to Swansea and we have to hope that was a wake-up call and we can now start firing on all cylinders and start to play the good football we know we can with some consistency.
In theory based on current form we should be able to take Preston to the cleaners but then this is a bitter derby and anything can happen.
Preston have had a poor start to the season with just one win and three points from their opening four matches in the Championship. They are currently 4th from bottom and North End gaffer, Darren Ferguson will be keen to start reversing that trend. Preston have not won away now since January this year and Burnley will need to make sure it remains that way.
Burnley Team News:
This match preview was written before the International break was over so we have to hope all the Clarets doing their bit for their respective countries return home without injury
Tyrone Mears sits out an automatic one match ban following his red card for two bookable offences in the game away to Swansea a fortnight ago. Michael Duff though targeted a return to first team duty against Preston following his calf injury and could be in line for a recall.
One injury doubt is Chris Iwelumo and we await news of his hamstring injury. He picked up the injury late in the second half against Swansea after the Clarets had made all three substitutions. He hobbled on until the end but with Mears already sent off, we were effectively down to nine men. He missed Scotland`s first game in midweek against Lithuania in the European Championship qualifiers and his chances of joining up with the Scotland squad for their game against Liechtenstein at Hampden Park on Tuesday night looks slim.
The fact that Laws did not dip into the transfer market before the window closed last Tuesday suggests Iwelumo may have a chance to recover in time before the Preston match unless the gaffer has his eye on a loan striker once the loan market opens this week.
The only other current injury we have is of course to Chris McCann who is recovering from the surgery to fix his cruciate ligament. Chris is not expected to return until the early New Year having been told he will need six months to recover.
Player to watch: Ross Wallace
Wallace of course was one of Brian Laws summer signings this year. He was signed from Preston for an undisclosed fee in July 2010 penning a three-year deal. It will be interesting to see what sort of reception (along with Graham Alexander) he receives from the Preston fans and more importantly to see how he fares against his former club. He should certainly be up for it and he will have a point to prove.
Preston North End Team News:
Centre half, Wayne Brown signed from Leicester City earlier in the summer but he has yet to make his full debut for Preston after struggling with hip and calf injuries. His appearances have been limited to two pre-season matches. However he returned to full training last Monday and is hoping he will be in contention for a place against the Clarets this Saturday.
We will bring you any further Preston team news this week as it is announced
Player to watch: Josh King
Preston signed Joshua King on loan from Manchester United in the summer.
King can play as a striker or on the wing but has still to make his debut for United. He comes highly recommended though and has already played a handful of games for Preston in the Championship and Carling Cup competition scoring one goal and assisting in another.
He is only 18 and has already represented Norway in their Under 19 squad. He is actually of Gambian descent but he has family ties to Norway with his mother being Norwegian and having been born in Oslo.
His first club was Romsås IL, a club he joined at the age of six. At the age of 14 he joined another Norwegian club, Vålerenga before being spotted by Manchester United. King signed for Manchester United when he turned 16 in January 2008.
Team & Tactics
In terms of our strike force, it is likely we will keep with the 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formation with a lone striker up front supported by the wide men.
Striker, Chris Iwelumo though remains an injury doubt and even if he was fit I would suggest it would be best to rest him and give Steven Thompson his first league start. By all means, have Iwelumo on the bench if he has recovered from his hamstring injury well enough to play but I think Thompson has done enough now to warrant a starting eleven place in the absence of any new strikers being brought in during the transfer and loan windows (so far).
The other problem for Brian Laws will be the right back slot thanks to Mears picking up an automatic one match suspension against Swansea and being sidelined for the derby clash. David Edgar took over that role when Mears was injured earlier this season but Laws could have another option. Michael Duff has targeted a return against Preston after recovering from a calf strain and could play at right back. Although Duff is far more effective at centre back, it is difficult to see him dislodging Bikey or Carlisle in the centre with both putting in some excellent solid performances recently in the back four. Duff is adequate at right back and this could be his chance to make the starting eleven.
Richard Eckersley is another option at right back but the lad still doesn`t seem ready yet and is somewhat risky in relation to his tendency to pick up yellow and red cards.
Although I am by no means confident of my predicted line-up, I would suggest the following could be effective against Preston:
Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Bikey, Fox, Alexander, Elliott, Marney (or Cork), Wallace, Paterson, Thompson
Subs: Grant, Cort, Edgar, Cork (or Marney), Eagles, Rodriguez, Iwelumo (if fit
I don`t know why but I sense for once we could turn Preston over and give them a tonking but I won`t get ahead of myself and will predict a modest 3-1 Clarets victory with Brian Laws street cred going up a notch or three!
The Clarets have two away games next within the space of five days. We have a match against Middlesbrough at the Riverside on the night of Tuesday 14th September (7:45pm Kick Off) before travelling to London to play Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday 18th September (3pm Kick-Off)