Date: 9th January 2015 at 12:12pm
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Burnley host QPR at Turf Moor this Saturday in a vital six pointer. The clash is the first of four games all against struggling sides.

The Pre-amble:

A crucial make-or-break period is coming up for the Clarets with the next four games all involving sides struggling to avoid relegation. Crystal Palace at home, Sunderland away and West Brom at home are soon to follow but first it`s QPR at Turf Moor this Saturday. Burnley although still in the relegation zone second from bottom are only two points behind the 16th placed West London club and could do their survival campaign a great deal of good if they can win on Saturday and leapfrog above the Rs. As it stands at the moment, Burnley on 17 points have three more than bottom-club Leicester and are just behind Crystal Palace on goal difference. West Brom in 17th have 18 points. Hull in 15th are ahead of QPR on goal difference; next come Sunderland in 14th spot on 20 points, just three more than Burnley. You can now see how vital amassing points over the next four games are going to be considering they are against four of the sides mentioned above.

Only last month the Clarets suffered a 2-0 defeat at Loftus Road and they will be looking for revenge on Saturday against a side that has not won one single game on the road this season. Indeed they have lost all eight of their top flight games and even went down 1-0 away to Burton in the Capital One Cup. It will also be interesting to see how they react after being unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup at Loftus Road on Sunday by League One Sheffield United following the Blades convincing 3-0 win.

You can never take anything for granted in this league though and Burnley will have to battle hard to keep Harry Redknapp`s men including in particular Charlie Austin quiet.

There can be no slip ups though for the Clarets and a point let alone a defeat will simply not cut the mustard. Our survival or not could well be defined by the results over the next four games and we need to get off to a cracking start on Saturday with victory over QPR, a win which more than likely would see the Clarets out of the drop zone by the time Crystal Palace arrive a week later.

Burnley Team News:

Jason Shackell could be back in contention on Saturday after picking up a calf injury in the New Year`s Day game at St James Park and missing out on the FA Cup game at home to Spurs on Monday night.

All of a sudden, Sean Dyche seems to have more options in the back four but it was bad news for Kevin Long who replaced Shackell in the Newcastle game to make his Premier League debut but only lasted 20 minutes before being stretchered off. Scans revealed he will now miss the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament injury. Michael Duff has also been sidelined for the last nine games with a calf injury and looks set to miss out again although is thought to be close to full fitness. Duff could struggle to get back in the side with Michael Keane in such good form. It would have been Keane`s last game under his loan deal on Saturday but the great news this week is that Burnley have now signed the England U21 international on a permanent deal from Manchester United.
David Jones missed out on Monday night at home to Spurs in the FA Cup and it was later revealed he was suffering from a bout of illness. He has though now fully recovered and should be back in the starting eleven.

Matt Taylor (Achilles) and defender Stephen Ward (ankle) though look set to remain on the sidelines

Player to watch: Sam Vokes

You can probably expect to see Vokes at some point during this match especially after scoring an equaliser on Monday night in the 1-1 draw against Spurs in the FA Cup. Dyche could be tempted to give him his first start of the season on Saturday and Burnley fans will certainly be keen to see if the VINGS partnership can pick up where they left off last season before Vokes was cruelly sidelined with a cruciate ligament injury.

Queens Park Rangers Team News:

Striker, Mauro Zarate could make his debut against Burnley having signed on loan from West Ham until the end of the season this week. It is also reported that Adel Taarabt has been included in QPR`s squad for Saturday`s game against the Clarets. Taarabt returned to training this week following an injury. He has not made a league appearance since coming on as a substitute at West Ham in October and later that month was involved in a sensational bust up in public with Harry Redknapp accusing the 25 year old of being overweight and unprofessional. It looks like they may have resolved their differences!

25-year-old Brazilian midfielder Sandro joined QPR from Tottenham in September but has been absent since damaging the medial ligaments in his right knee during a 1-0 loss at Newcastle in November. He looks set to return to training in a fortnight but will be sidelined on Saturday.

Another midfielder Alejandro Faurlin is still recovering from a third cruciate ligament injury in as many seasons. The 28-year-old Argentine sustained the injury back in August in the 1-0 Capital One Cup loss at Burton Albion and was told he could be out for six-nine months.

Left back Yun Suk-young is also still recovering from an ankle injury picked up in QPR`s recent 3-2 win over West Brom just before Christmas and looks set to still be out for a few weeks yet.

Player to watch: Mauro Zarate

It is so easy to keep picking leading goal-scorer and former Clarets striker, Charlie Austin so I won`t this time. Austin seems to be their only effective goal-scorer at the moment so keep him quiet you keep QPR quiet. Having said that Argentina striker Mauro Zarate signed from West Ham and joined Queens Park Rangers on loan until the end of the season this week. It is thought he could make his debut against the Clarets so we might have to keep an eye out for him too. The 27-year-old scored twice in eight appearances for the Hammers after joining from Velez Sarsfield in May 2014 but has recently been out of favour.

Team & Tactics:

If Shackell is back in contention, the back four will pick itself with Ben Mee returning to left back. If not it looks like Mee will once again partner Keane in the centre of defence with Danny Lafferty at left back. The big question is who will partner Danny Ings up front. Ashley Barnes has been a ‘hero` of late and found his goal-scoring touch in style with some spectacular efforts. Sam Vokes though scored his first goal of the season in only his second game on Monday night ensuring that Burnley lived again to fight another day following the 1-1 draw in the FA Cup against Spurs. He came on from the bench just past the hour mark to get the equalising goal in the 73rd minute. It looks like a bit of a dilemma for Dyche and it would certainly be a tadge hard if Barnes was dropped back to the bench. The chance to test out the Vings partnership again though and give Vokes his first start could be too tempting for the gaffer and I would not be surprised if he chooses that option.

With David Jones now fit following a bout of illness that seems to be doing the rounds at the club at the moment, it looks likely he will be back in the starting eleven partnering Dean Marney in the centre of midfield allowing Scott Arfield to play out on the wing

I can`t make my mind up over the Vokes/Barnes option but think Vokes could make his first start. I will go with this predicted line-up:

Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Keane, Mee, Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd, Ings, Vokes

Subs from: Gilks, Reid, Lafferty, O`Neill, Kightly, Wallace, Jutkiewicz, Sordell, Barnes

Ref Watch:

Andre Marriner is in charge of this one and it will be this second game of the season involving the Clarets. He was referee for our home game against Everton back in October. Hopefully we will get a better result this time considering we lost that one 3-1! The West Midlands referee handed out six yellow cards too in the Toffees clash and so far this season his card tally account amounts to just one red but 61 yellows from his 17 games in charge.

Match Prediction:

There can only be one outcome in this vital six pointer namely a Clarets win. It is no use earning bonus points away to the likes of Manchester City and Newcastle United only to fluff your lines at home against teams struggling to avoid the drop. QPR have lost all their games on the road this season so far without picking up a single point and Burnley have to make sure that shocking statistic continues. That statistic in itself almost fills you with dread but if the Clarets simply play like they have been in recent games they should be too strong for QPR. 3-1 to the Mighty Clarets

Next Match:

The Clarets have embarked on probably their most crucial period of their Premier League campaign and points will be vital if they are to retain their Premier League status next season. After QPR on Saturday, they play another three games, two of them at home against sides struggling to avoid the drop. In their next league game they play Palace at Turf Moor on Saturday 17th (3pm Kick-Off) followed by Sunderland in the Stadium of Light and then another crucial game at home to West Brom.

The Clarets actual next game though will be the third-round FA Cup replay against Spurs at White Hart Lane on Wednesday 14th January (Kick-Off: 8pm)