Date: 24th April 2009 at 9:16am
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The Clarets need just three points from their last two games of the season to ensure a place in the play-offs and they have their first chance on Saturday when they play Southampton at St Marys. The Hampshire club have now been effectively relegated after yesterday being docked 10 points by the Football League and it will be interesting to see what sort of fight the Saints now put up against the Clarets.

Setting the Scene

A marvellous 1-0 victory at Turf Moor against high-flying Sheffield United on Monday night strongly kept our play-off hopes alive and the Clarets now need just three points from their last two remaining games of the season to ensure they will feature in the play-offs. Reading beat Derby at Pride Park in midweek to go above us but we are currently in 6th on 72 points.

The victory against the Blades, a team that had not lost away in the previous 15 games on the road ensured we now had a four point cushion over the chasing 7th and 8th placed clubs (Swansea and Preston).

We could clinch a play-offs spot therefore if we defeat Southampton at St Marys on Saturday but if not we might have to wait until our last game at home to Bristol City on Sunday May 3rd.

Both Preston and Swansea this Saturday face tough games on the road to play sides still looking to clinch automatic promotion. Our local rivals are up against Birmingham currently in 2nd spot in the late afternoon game while Swansea will not be relishing a trip to Bramall Lane to play Sheffield United in 3rd spot.

On paper therefore we should have the easier task. We should be too strong for the Saints, a club that have had a torrid season, languishing in the bottom three relegation positions for most of the season and being crippled by financial worries and administration threats. It got even bleaker for the Hampshire club yesterday. Southampton have been effectively relegated after being docked 10 points by the Football League.

The ruling comes after Saints’ parent company, Southampton Leisure Holdings plc went into administration, though the club and administrators say they expect to launch an appeal. The Football League did not accept the club`s argument that the parent company going into administration was not the same as the club suffering the same fate. If they lose the appeal, the 10 points will be deducted so even if they get the four points they need for safety in their last two games they would still go down after the points deduction. If they remain in the bottom three and suffer relegation, the points will be taken off next season when they start their campaign in League 1. It is a very sad state of affairs and no fan should wish this on another club. We wish Southampton all the best and hope they can bounce back next season and sort out their financial situation.

All these shenanigans off the pitch leave one question at the back of the minds of all Clarets fans. How will this news affect the motivation and performance of the Saints on the pitch this Saturday?

They might have been up for a fight if relegation was not now almost certain. The hammer blow yesterday could be the final straw psychologically although with the appeal if successful they still could survive. On the other hand, maybe they think the pressure is off now and they can just relax and enjoy a game of football feeling they have something to prove. It is a difficult one to call and I think the Clarets simply have to put aside all thought of how the Saints players might react and concentrate on their own game without being too complacent. It would be nice to secure the play-offs spot in this clash rather than have to win in our last game of the season against the Robins at Turf Moor. That could be too much pressure for Clarets fans to bear in this roller-coaster of a season.

The only injury doubt for the Clarets appears to be Steven Thompson. He has not played since being injured in the game against Nottingham Forest at Turf Moor back in March. It looks like Owen Coyle is not risking him until he is fully fit, hoping that his ankle ligament injury will fully recover in time for the play-offs. Coyle talking about Thommo`s situation said:

‘He trained a few days ago and the pain was just too much for him. It`s still severely swollen but such was his desire to play he was prepared to put himself through the pain barrier. But what he couldn`t do was twist and turn, which is a big part of his game. He`s still continuing to improve and we`ll monitor that. Saturday might come too soon but who knows? Knowing him, he`ll certainly put himself on the line to try and play. But whether he can get through the pain threshold, time will tell”

Martin Paterson now seems to have fully recovered from his niggling hamstring problem and after scoring the vital and only goal in the game against the Blades on Monday night, looks set to retain his place leading the attack.

With no news of any further injury concerns, I suspect Coyle will name the same sixteen for the game against the Saints so we can expect the following line-up:

Jensen, Williams, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Alexander, Eagles, McCann. Elliott, Blake, Paterson

Subs: Penny, Duff, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Rodriguez

Southampton Team News:

No team news is currently available but we will provide in due course below this article

Player to watch: Kelvin Davis

The Saints keeper could be key in this game with his side only managing one clean sheet in the last six games. The England Under 21 stopper signed for Southampton from Sunderland in July 2006 for a fee reported to be around £1m.

Burnley Team News:

Steven Thompson looks to be the only doubt since he still seems to be suffering with an ankle ligament injury.

Player to watch: Martin Paterson

He returned with a vengeance on Monday night scoring a goal for the first time since February and despite missing a few games recently due to injury he is still our leading goal scorer with 18 goals this season, 12 of them in the Championship. He looks up for it now and could be a key player in our remaining matches including hopefully now the play-off games.

Last Time We Met

The Clarets defeated the Saints 3-2 at Turf Moor back in December last year and at St Marys in the previous season almost a year ago came away with a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal by Caldwell.

Ref Watch:

Peter Walton (Northamptonshire)

Match Prediction:

Providing we don`t get too complacent and we can focus on our normal game, we should be too strong for the Saints and I am looking forward to a victory. If we get the first goal, with all the problems Southampton are having, their heads could drop but I will go with a 2-0 Clarets win.

Next Match

It`s the last scheduled game of the season in the fixture list with Bristol City the visitors to Turf Moor on Sunday 3rd May. The Robins have nothing to play for but pride after failing to reach the play-offs and for the Clarets it might just be a matter of winning to finish as high as possible in the top 6 with a play-offs spot already secured. If things go really badly this weekend though, it could be a game we have to win to ensure we are still in with a chance of getting to Wembley and a play-offs final.