Date: 17th February 2012 at 8:49am
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On Sky

Burnley play Reading at the Madejski Stadium tonight in front of the live Sky Sports TV cameras. Prince Charles confirmed he was a Clarets fan this week but we will still be hoping to beat the Royals and maintain our promotion push.

The Pre-amble:

The Clarets face Reading at the Madejski Stadium tonight in a rearranged game brought forward a day from Saturday to accommodate Sky Sports wishes to cover the game live on TV. This is a crunch match in many respects with both sides chasing a play-offs spot. The Royals currently occupy the sixth and final play-offs spot with 51 points from 30 games with Burnley just four points behind them in 10th spot although they have played a game more. It is almost crucial therefore that the Clarets get something from this game to keep in contention. We could have a mountain to climb if we finish up more than five points adrift of the play-offs following tonight`s result.

It won`t be easy either against Brian McDermott`s men who are one of the Championship`s in form teams at the moment. They have won their last three games in the Championship and indeed have won eight of their last ten league games losing two. Reading`s home form is also pretty impressive with five wins out of six matches at the Madejski. Last month however the Royals lost one league game at home to Hull City and also suffered a surprise 1-0 home defeat to League 1, Stevenage in the FA Cup so they are not unbeatable in front of their home fans.

Reading Team News:

Reading manager Brian McDermott will be without captain, Jobi McAnuff tonight. The 30 year old midfielder has undergone a minor hernia operation and needs a short time to recuperate. Joseph Mills is likely to continue on the left of midfield with former Blackpool defender, Kaspars Gorkss taking the captain’s armband.

Full-backs Andy Griffin and Shaun Cummings (hamstring) have already missed the last two games and could still be sidelined. Matthew Connolly and Ian Harte look set to continue in defence.

Tomasz Cwyka could be included in the sixteen after missing the trip to Derby in midweek, but striker Karl Sheppard is unlikely to feature after picking up a minor knock against the Rams.

Player to watch: Jimmy Kébé

28 year old Mali international winger, Jimmy Kébé is usually a handful for the Clarets if past games are anything to go by. He has certainly given left back, Brian Easton the runaround and with the doubts over Trippier, Easton could be up against him again tonight if Ben Mee is forced to play in the centre of defence. Reading signed Kébé for an undisclosed fee from Lens B in January 2008 after agreeing a two-and-a-half year contract. Kébé signed a new contract last month that will keep him at Reading until 2014.

Burnley Team News:

Both Martin Paterson and Junior Stanislas are close to making a return after both picking up hamstring injuries and being sidelined for the last few weeks. Pato in particular might make the sixteen tonight and faces a late fitness test

There is a doubt though that right back, Kieran Trippier will be fit enough to play. Trippier was substituted in stoppage time in our last game at home to Barnsley in midweek after suffering from a back injury. His back is still understood to be feeling stiff and the injury will be assessed ahead of the Reading clash.

Player to watch: David Edgar

Edgar could have a key role to play tonight especially if Trippier is out injured and he has to step into the right back position again due to limited options. He looked uncomfortable playing at right back in the FA Cup game against Norwich and all Clarets fans will be hoping Trippier makes the starting eleven allowing Edgar to continue to play in central defence where he has looked strong in recent games.

Team & Tactics:

Eddie Howe could face a headache tonight if Kieran Trippier is not fit enough to play. With no recognised cover at right back, the only alternative really would be to play Edgar in that position, Mee in the centre of defence in partnership with Duff, and bring in Easton at left back. Howe tried this defensive line-up recently when Trippier was sidelined with a one match suspension. It was not however very successful with Edgar in particular struggling but we seem to have little option.

The other question is whether we might be more defensive in this game, especially if Trippier is out injured. Howe might consider moving to a 4-5-1or 4-1-3-1-1 formation possibly with Marney as holding midfielder playing in front of the back four. The other problem could be defensive cover on the bench. The only recognised defenders in the squad other are out-of-favour Andre Amougou and new signing, Danny Lafferty. Could Lafferty be up to full fitness yet after being signed in Ireland`s close season? Howe might be tempted instead to include Amougou in the sixteen, especially since he might be up for this one playing against his former club.

The gaffer certainly has a number of options up front. Danny Ings having recovered from his cartilage injury played for the first time this season against Barnsley on Tuesday night after coming on from the bench to make his first team debut. Paterson too may be in contention for a place if he passes a late fitness test. Josh McQuoid is also a recognised striker but could be given a wider role again with both Rodriguez and Austin playing together up front.

Until we know whether Trippier is fit enough to play it is difficult to predict the line up without making assumptions. I will assume the worst case scenario and opt for a more defensive 4-1-3-1-1 (or similar) type formation.

Grant, Edgar, Duff, Mee, Easton, Marney, Wallace, McCann, McQuoid, Rodriguez, Austin.

Subs: Jensen, Amougou, Bartley, Treacy, Ings or Paterson (if fit)

Ref Watch:

Cheshunt referee, Darren Deadman is in charge of this clash down in Berkshire. His last game involving the Clarets was our 1-0 away defeat to Cardiff in the Carling Cup back in October last year. Six yellow cards were handed out that day and indeed Deadman does seem quite prolific showing on average 4-5 cards per game. In his 33 matches so far this season, 10 players have been sent off with another 148 being shown a yellow card.

Match Prediction:

A point would be an excellent result against an in-form team on their home soil. This will be a difficult match to come away with anything but I will go with a 2-2 draw hoping we might sneak if.

Next Match:

We play Millwall at Turf Moor on Saturday 25th February (Kick-Off 3pm)