Date: 16th December 2011 at 10:39pm
Written by:

The Clarets play Brighton for the first time in their new Amex Stadium on Saturday, hoping to put behind them the disappointing home defeat against Portsmouth a week ago.

The Pre-amble:

So here we are again wondering what sort of team will turn up after a disappointing defeat in our last game against Pompey at home! This of course was on the back of three consecutive wins which had boosted morale prior to last Saturday.

It is quite simply impossible to predict any more the outcome of our games with any degree of confidence. Our inconsistency is about the only consistent aspect to our performances!

I guess this inconsistent form is reflected in our league position. We are 15th with 27 points from 21 games and have a zero goal difference! This mid-table mediocrity ensures we are eight points off the play-offs positions but also only seven away from the drop zone! How average can we be?

Brighton in contrast have had a pretty good start to their Championship campaign after being promoted from League 1 last season. They looked to be taking the league by storm at one point earlier in the season winning five of their first six opening games. Their form though then dipped and hit the buffers with the Seagulls plummeting to mid-table after no win in nine games before they somehow got back on track and climbed back up the table.

Gus Poyet`s men now will no doubt probably be satisfied with their current position. They are currently 7th just three points behind sixth-placed Leeds United. Albion have won four of their last six games, having lost two both away from home. At home, they have been pretty impressive and we will have our work cut out to come away with all three points! The Seagulls are chasing a fourth successive home league win although they have lost twice at home this season first to historic rivals, Crystal Palace and then to high flyers, West Ham. It is probably significant that they have also drawn four of their home games compared to only three wins so far this season.

If the team that beat West Ham at the Boleyn Ground turn up, we can get something from this game. If it`s the one that lost to Pompey, it could be a grim day on the South Coast!

Let`s be optimistic and hope we can get out third consecutive away win on the spin after beating Hull City and West Ham in our last two games on the road.

Brighton & Hove Albion Team News:

Seagulls` midfielder Ryan Harley is fit to face the Clarets after missing the last two matches with a hamstring injury.

Full-back Marcos Painter though could miss out again with his hamstring problem and striker Will Hoskins suffering from a knee injury also remains a doubt. Former Spain and Valencia winger Vicente Rodriguez is also still sidelined. The playmaker has suffered from a thigh and groin problem and has not featured since the goalless draw with Hull in October.

Player to watch: Craig Mackail-Smith

27 year old striker, Craig Mackail-Smith signed for Brighton in July 2011 after accepting a four-year deal. He arrived from Peterborough costing Brighton £2.5 million with possible add-ons. The Scotland international is currently Brighton`s joint leading goal-scorer this season with seven goals to his credit in total; six in the Championship! Although not as impressive in his goal scoring exploits compared to his Dagenham and Posh days when he scored a goal every 1-in-3 games, he is still a handful and needs to be carefully monitored.

Burnley Team News:

We only have two injuries in the squad at the moment and both of those are making progress although neither will be available for the clash in East Sussex. Striker, Danny Ings is recovering from his cartilage injury and looks set to be available in the early New Year.

Keeper, Brian Jensen, has had a bit of a set back with his groin injury . The 36-year-old has been out since September after being injured in the game away to Posh but is hoping to be back in early January after visiting a specialist.

Manager Eddie Howe told the club’s official website: ‘Brian had an injection in his groin which will put him back four to six weeks but hopefully that will get to the heart of the problem and he will be back with us.

‘It’s been a nasty one for him. He had got to the stage where he could do everything bar the long kicking.

‘He just felt little twinges in his groin and we felt we had to get it seen to so he’s been to see the specialist and hopefully that’s sorted it.’

Player to watch: Dean Marney

Will he or won`t he feature? I have a sneaky feeling after his really good performance in holding midfield away to West Ham, Howe could be tempted to play him there again on away soil.

Team & Tactics:

Will Eddie Howe remain loyal to the team that lost to Pompey at home last Saturday or will he wring the changes? I guess it also depends on whether he plays a 4-4-2 formation or experiments again with a five man midfield. The latter is something he seems to enjoy away from home and often tinkers with one striker alone up front and one of our wingers in the hole. Could he be considering Dean Marney again for example in a more defensive, holding midfield role or will he once more have to be content with a place on the bench?

We certainly have lots of options at the moment with only Danny Ings and Brian Jensen currently sidelined. What sort of attack will we have we with Paterson and Austin now back and fully fit competing with Sam Vokes and Jay Rodriguez? Will Zavon Hines even be considered?

It really is difficult to call this one, but something tells me we won`t start with the traditional 4-4-2 away from home and will try something clever in midfield.

On that basis, I will select the following in 4-1-4-1 with Marney in holding midfield:

Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee, Marney, Stanislas, McCann, Bartley, Wallace, Rodriguez

Subs: Stewart, Easton, Treacy, plus 2 Strikers from Vokes, Austin, Paterson

Ref Watch:

Craig Pawson from South Yorkshire is the referee for this clash. This will be only his second game involving the Clarets and his first in the Championship. His previous game involving Burnley was the Carling Cup 1st round tie against Burton Albion this season which we won eventually 6-3 in extra time. He handed out four yellow cards in that game and also awarded the Clarets two penalties! Amazingly, he is the only ref so far this season to award a penalty to the Clarets

His total card count for the season so far from 16 games comes to 5 reds and 60 yellows

Match Prediction:

I just sense a score draw could be on the cards! We have not had many draws at all this season and indeed none at all away from home; the last draw was at home to Southampton back in September and our only other stalemates were against Watford at home on the opening day of the season and against Cardiff on home soil back in August. 2-2!!

Next Match:

Welcome to the Christmas period! Oh heck! Doncaster Rovers at home is our next game on Boxing Day Monday 26th December (Kick-Off 3pm)