Date: 16th January 2015 at 8:05am
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Burnley host Crystal Palace on Saturday in the second of four consecutive league battles against clubs fighting along with the Clarets to avoid relegation.

The Pre-amble:

It`s another relegation dogfight for the Clarets at home to fellow strugglers Crystal Palace on Saturday. Burnley will have been buoyed up by their 2-1 win over QPR at Turf Moor last Saturday; a victory which saw the Clarets leapfrog the Rs and move out of the drop zone into 17th position with 20 points from 21 games.

That was the first of four key games against relegation-threatened sides and next up in the second is the Eagles, a club seemingly reinvigorated following the sacking of Neil Warnock and the arrival of new manager Alan Pardew. Warnock was sacked on Boxing Day following a 3-1 home defeat to Southampton and the Eagles have since been undefeated clocking up two wins and two draws. Caretaker manager, Keith Millen steered Palace to two goalless away draws against QPR and Villa before Pardew arrived

Palace beat Spurs 2-1 at Selhurst Park last Saturday after coming from a goal behind in Pardew`s second game in charge following their 4-0 thumping of Dover away in the FA Cup. The result against Spurs leaves them on 20 points in 15th spot ahead of the Clarets only on goal difference (5 goal advantage). Sandwiched between the two clubs is Sunderland who we play next at the Stadium of Light. A win on Saturday for the Clarets could see them climb as high as 12th. Everton currently in 12th spot and Aston Villa in 13th both have only two more points than the Clarets.. Next come West Brom in 14th spot on 21 points and we play them at home in the fourth key game in early February. The bottom three clubs in ascending order are now Leicester (17 points), QPR (19 points) and Hull ahead of the Rs on goal difference only. It is all getting so very tight down there and victory over Palace could open up a margin of safety for the Clarets and put some clear blue water between Burnley and the bottom three.

Burnley Team News:

Jason Shackell could be back in contention on Saturday . He picked up a calf injury in the New Year`s Day game at St James Park. Although he returned against QPR at home last Saturday after missing out on the FA Cup game against Spurs at Turf Moor which finished 1-1, he felt his calf again in that game and was subsequently sidelined for the FA Cup replay at White Hart Lane in midweek.

The good news for the Clarets is that if Shackell doesn`t make it, Michael Duff will be available after recently missing ten games with a calf injury. He made a start on Wednesday night against Spurs and was made captain for the night in the absence of Shackell. Duff played the full 90 minutes partnering Keane in the centre of defence although there was a slight change with Keane playing at left centre back and Duff on the right. Our other centre back Kevin Long though is out for the rest of the season after picking up a cruciate ligament injury in the New Year`s Day game at Newcastle.

Stephen Ward (ankle) is back out on the grass but is still about 3-4 weeks away from making a return. Matty Taylor (Achilles) also looks set to remain sidelined.

Sean Dyche made five changes for the FA Cup Replay on Wednesday night preferring to rest Danny Ings, Ashley Barnes, George Boyd and Dean Marney. We can expect all four to be back in the starting eleven against Palace. Sam Vokes though started the cup game and played the full 90 minutes and Marvin Sordell scored his first goal for the Clarets. Sordell will probably have to be content with a place on the bench but Dyche could be tempted to give Vokes another start.

Player to watch: George Boyd

The winger with the ability to score Boyd could be key for the Clarets this Saturday. In his first few games for the Clarets he seemed to burn himself out in the first half being generally disappointing and invisible in the second. However he now seems to put in tireless performances over the full 90 minutes and can be influential in any part of the pitch, coming back to help the defence, charging forward from midfield and scoring goals. He now has four goals for the season on a par with Ashley Barnes.

Crystal Palace Team News:

Marouane Chamakh could make a return to the bench this weekend. The striker damaged a hamstring during last month`s game against Stoke.

Burnley`s summer target, James McArthur has also been passed fit to start after picking up a foot injury last weekend.

There could also be a place in the eighteen for new signing Yaya Sanogo (see below ‘Players to Watch` section) and he may even make his debut in the starting eleven.

The good news for the Clarets is that two of the Eagles best players are also out for a few weeks on international duty. Yannick Bolasie is competing in the African Cup of Nations and captain Mile Jedinak is involved with the Asian Cup although he has picked up an injury so may not feature.

Player to watch: Yaya Sanogo

Sanogo became Alan Pardew`s first signing for Palace in midweek. The 21 year old striker arrived from Arsenal on loan until the end of the season. The France Under-21 international has played five games for the Gunners so far this season and scored one goal (against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League). Arsenal signed the striker from Auxerre in July 2013 on a long-term contract.

‘We have given him an opportunity. He needs to play more games and I think he’s ready for that and he proved that at Arsenal,’ added Pardew.

‘It’s tough to get in their team but he’s closer to the starting action with us.’

He looks set to make his debut for the Eagles against the Clarets this Saturday

Team & Tactics:

Putting aside the exploits and team selection of the two FA Cup games, Sean Dyche could be tempted to name the same starting eleven for the eighth consecutive League game although in order to achieve that Jason Shackell will have to be fit enough to start. The Clarets set up a new Premier League record against QPR last Saturday after naming the same starting eleven for the seventh league game in succession. Will they break their own record?

A number of players were also rested for the midweek FA Cup game and I fully expect certainly Danny Ings, George Boyd and Dean Marney to be back in the starting eleven. If Shackell is still sidelined, it will not be a major headache for Dyche with Duff also now back after injury. The big question is whether the gaffer might be tempted to start Sam Vokes after his 90 minute run-out in the FA Cup replay on Wednesday night. Ashley Barnes might have something to say about that though!

The line-up therefore could look something like this

Heaton, Trippier, Shackell (or Duff if injured), Keane, Mee, Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd, Ings, Vokes (or Barnes)

Subs from: Gilks, Reid, Duff, Lafferty, Kightly, Wallace, Jutkiewicz, Sordell, Barnes, Vokes

Ref Watch:

Phil Dowd will be our referee for the third time this season on Saturday. The Staffordshire referee took charge of our game away to Leicester back in October. The match finished 2-2 and four players picked up yellow cards that day. His last match involving the Clarets was only last month when we fought out a 1-1 draw against Newcastle at Turf Moor. Once again four players saw yellow!

In his 18 games so far this season four players have been sent off with another 75 players picking up yellow cards.

Match Prediction:

The danger for the Clarets could be complacency with the Eagles looking somewhat invigorated following the arrival of new manager Alan Pardew. It is quite simply another must-win game for Burnley though and nothing less than three points will suffice. 3-1 Burnley and a convincing win and reality check for Pardew! Come on you Clarets!

Next Match:

There will now be a bit of a break for the Clarets. It is FA Cup fourth round weekend up next and of course the Clarets will not feature having been knocked out 4-2 by Spurs at White Hart Lane in the third round replay in midweek. They next play the third of their quartet of games against relegation-threatened clubs and that will be against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday January 31st (Kick-Off: 3pm)