League leaders, QPR come to Turf Moor on Saturday and the Clarets will be desperate to get their promotion campaign back on track after a break to concentrate on the FA Cup.
The Clarets are already 13 points behind league leaders, Queens Park Rangers although do have a game in hand over them. If they still have any ambitions of automatic promotion then a win over Neil Warnock`s men on Saturday will be crucial. A play-offs spot though is looking a more reasonable target at this stage with the Clarets currently tenth on 35 points from 24 games. They simply have to win on Saturday anyway to keep in contention and hopefully then under a new manager start to play with some consistency and put together a good run. We are already four points adrift of the play-offs with Watford currently sixth on 39 points having played the same number of games as the Clarets.
Watford of course are managed by Malky MacKay, one of our supposed targets to be our new manager. Sky Sports broke the news yesterday that we had approached Watford to speak to MacKay although there is no official confirmation from the club yet and the Hornets chairman has already made it plain such an approach would be unwelcome.
Stuart Gray, as caretaker manager has already played out his allotted three games, so the Clarets aim must surely be to have the new manager done & dusted and in place by the time we face QPR on Saturday. There is certainly no guarantee though we can achieve that aim. Paul Lambert at Norwich has already turned us down and MacKay could follow suit leaving about four others on the short-list to look at with St Johnstone manager, Derek McInnes and Bournemouth gaffer, Eddie Howe believed to be high up on the list of candidates the club want to interview.
It is anybody`s guess then who will be in the dugout on Saturday and it could still be Stuart Gray. We will just have to see how things develop this week.
Queens Park Rangers may be top of the Championship at the moment but their performances of late leave a lot to be desired with consistency being the main problem. They have lost three of their last six league games winning only two. In terms of their away form they have achieved only one win in six although have also picked up three draws on the road. The Rs also come to Turf Moor having been knocked out of the FA Cup by East Lancashire rivals, Blackburn Rovers in their last match. The 1-0 defeat was bad enough but they also lost Jamie Mackie after a serious leg break so they could be on a low when they face the Clarets.
Burnley Team News:
This article is being written a little bit earlier than usual so we will bring you regular updates if there is any subsequent team news. At the moment though, it looks like we have come through unscathed following the FA Cup Port Vale game with no new injury worries.
A week ago the club informed everybody that Martin Paterson was a ‘week away` from being fit after being sidelined since the Doncaster home game back in November so he might make an appearance against QPR on Saturday.
Our only injury at the moment then appears to be Chris McCann who is still recovering from the corrective surgery last year to fix his cruciate ligament problem..
Player to watch: Wade Elliott
Elliott seems to be blowing hot and cold based on recent performances but maybe that`s because they can`t decide whether to play him out on the wing or inside midfield. I still prefer him out on the wing where he looks far more comfortable and effective.
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
One player who definitely won`t be playing this Saturday is the unfortunate striker Jamie Mackie. He collided badly with Blackburn`s Gael Givet in their FA cup clash on Saturday picking up a double fracture of the leg. It`s always sad to lose a player in those circumstances but for the Clarets it will certainly be one less worry. Mackie is always a danger and has 9 league goals to his credit already this season.
Striker, Patrick Agyemang will also be out of the running to replace him. He could be out for three months after recently picking up a stress fracture to his right leg.
Centre back, Matthew Connolly will also be sidelined. The 23 year old former Arsenal player picked up a straight red in the recent game away to Ipswich.
Player to watch: Adel Taarabt
The 21 year-old, Moroccan international midfielder is currently QPR`s leading goal scorer this season. Taarabt has 12 league goals to his name and is currently 5th in the Npower Championship Top Scorers table. He was on loan from Tottenham Hotspur for a couple of spells before they signed him permanently in August 2010 on a 3 year contract for a fee of £600k with add-ons. He is certainly a handful. If you keep Taarabt quiet, you keep QPR quiet so that should be a top target to try and achieve this Saturday.
Team & Tactics
At the time of writing, the managerial vacancy has still not been resolved so it is not clear if we will have a new manager at the helm by the time Burnley and QPR walk onto the pitch this Saturday. Stuart Gray has already taken charge of the three games he was originally allocated as caretaker manager but could still be in charge if no managerial announcements are made this week.
It is virtually impossible to second-guess then the team and tactics for this one although even a new manager is unlikely to do anything radical in his first game in charge until he gets to know his players.
Gray reverted back to 4-5-1 for the cup game against Port Vale and the team had a familiar Laws feel about it. One thing we really need to get sorted is our defence, especially in the centre of the back four. Duff and Carlisle have struggled in recent games and it is perhaps time to bring back Andre Bikey into the starting eleven. David Edgar was brought to the club as a centre back too but we seem to have played him anywhere but there in the handful of appearances he has made for the club! I think radical changes need to be made in the centre of defence but I just don`t think Gray will be up for doing that or a new manager until he assesses the players. The truth is we need to strengthen our defence and bring in new players in the January window. I just hope we will have time to do that. One dilemma facing any manager could be whether to start left back,Danny Fox ahead of Brian Easton. Fox has now fully recovered from his injury and was chosen ahead of Easton for the FA Cup game against the Valiants.
Another area of concern is the keeper. Grant has singularly failed to keep a clean sheet since replacing Jensen after the 4-0 home defeat to Reading back in October. He has also recently made a few costly errors, notably parrying instead of punching the ball away to safety. It had been thought the transfer-listed Jensen might have been given a starting eleven place in the FA Cup game against Port Vale last Saturday but Gray stubbornly stuck with Grant suggesting the Beast`s days are definitely numbered unless a new manager can rescue the situation and persuade Jensen to stay.
Steven Thompson must also be wondering what he has to do to get a regular starting eleven place after making a statement that he wants to stay at the club and test the water under a new manager. Gray gave him a chance against Reading at the Madejski but he was back on the bench for the Port Vale game. Chris Iwelumo seems to be playing indifferently at the moment and it is worrying that he continues to be strapped up suggesting he might be carrying an injury. His heading and shooting accuracy also seemed to desert the Scot in the FA Cup tie. We have been told by the club for about the last two months that Paterson is ‘a week away` from being in contention following a thigh injury. Even if he is now fully fit, he might struggle to automatically get back into the team with a bench appearance being the most likely at first.
With no news of any further injuries following the Port Vale cup match, the manager whoever that might be, could have the luxury of virtually a complete squad to choose from (except for McCann and the players out on loan)
I suspect whoever is in charge, we will select the same eighteen that faced Port Vale and play the same 4-5-1 formation. It is the easy option but in my opinion the totally wrong one. I hope therefore that this selection does not prove to be right.
Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox. Alexander, Eagles, Cork, Elliott. Rodriguez, Iwelumo.
Subs: Jensen, Bikey, Easton, Edgar, Marney, Wallace, Thompson
QPR`s form of late has been indifferent with just one win in their last six league games on the road. This won`t be easy for the Clarets, especially with potential uncertainty over the manager, but we could rise to the occasion in this one so 2-1 to Burnley.
It`s trip to Glanford Park next for the Clarets on Saturday 22nd January. Burnley will be hoping to avenge the recent defeat at home to Scunthorpe over the festive season and ensure The Iron don`t become the second team this season to get the double over them. Clarets fans are reminded this match is being covered live by Sky Sports and consequently kicks-off at 5:20pm.