The games are coming thick and fast over the festive period. Next up and our first of 2012, it`s Leeds United at Elland Road on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Clarets are riding high at the moment after seeing out 2011 with a bang. Two home victories against Doncaster and Hull City over the festive season saw Burnley move up the table to 7th spot just three points away from the play-offs spots.
Burnley have won six of their last seven games and have not been defeated now in three matches. It is also pretty incredible to record the fact that we have now kept three consecutive clean sheets. So can we continue this remarkable turnaround in fortune? Well we certainly face a tough challenge next with the Clarets travelling to Elland Road to play Leeds United on Bank Holiday Monday.
Leeds, though have suffered a recent slump in form and have dropped down the table. Simon Grayson`s men were heavily defeated 4-1 away to Yorkshire rivals, Barnsley in their last game on New Year`s Eve at Oakwell. That was actually their third consecutive defeat and they have only managed to pick up one point in their last four games. They have now dropped out of the play-offs positions and are currently in 10th spot. They are however still only one point behind the Clarets and four behind 6th placed Hull so they will be keen to get their promotion challenge back on track. Leeds home form also makes for dismal reading with only one win now in their last six games with two draws and three defeats.
Burnley picked up their first double of the season at their first attempt against Hull at Turf Moor on Saturday now they have to avoid a double against them at the first attempt! Leeds beat the Clarets 2-1 at Turf Moor in November last year so it would be nice to exact some revenge. Come on you Clarets, win this and we could be in the play-offs spots!
Leeds United Team News:
Leeds have just completed the signing of 20 year old Tottenham winger Andros Townsend on loan until the end of the season and he is expected to go straight into the starting eleven and make his debut against the Clarets.
United defender Tom Lees is also expected to return. He missed Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Barnsley due to concussion sustained at Derby on Boxing Day. Another Leeds defender, Alex Bruce has recently been recalled early from his loan spell at Huddersfield and could make a start against Burnley after the side`s woeful defensive performance against the Tykes.
Simon Grayson is reported to be considering making quite a few changes after the Barnsley shocker; a result and performance that clearly left the Leeds gaffer embarrassed.
Winger Robert Snodgrass however remains sidelined following his appendix operation last Thursday, and skipper Jonny Howson, who has missed the last four games due to a knee injury, will also be unavailable
Midfielder Adam Clayton and striker Luciano Becchio though could return to the starting line-up
Player to watch: Andy Lonergan
The 28 year old former Preston North End keeper, signed for Leeds United on a three-year contract for an undisclosed fee in July 2011. He is now in competition with Paul Rachubka for the number one spot left vacant by the departed Kasper Schmeichel. He would appear to be winning the battle though and only lost out to Rachubka when he fractured his finger and was out of action for six weeks earlier in the season.
Now back in the starting eleven, it will interesting to see if he has any psychological scaring following the four goals conceded in their last game against the Tykes. It is imperative that the Clarets put the keeper under pressure early to test his confidence and then keep him busy throughout the game.
Burnley Team News:
Brian Jensen is now back in training following the groin injury he picked up in the Posh game at London Road back in September. It is not expected that he will be in contention for the Leeds clash though. Striker, Danny Ings, who has yet to make his debut for the Clarets, could also be available later this month following steady recovery from a cartilage injury sustained in training just days after joining the club last summer.
News is also awaited regarding Michael Duff. He limped off with a hamstring injury in the Boxing Day game at home to Donny Rovers and missed out on the Hull clash on Saturday.
There is no news of any further injury concerns. Wallace seemed to shake off a limp in the Hull game and Ben Mee does not appear to have any ill-effects from yet another head injury after taking the full force of the ball in his face against the Tigers.
Player to watch: Kieran Trippier
Rumours abound on message boards that Burnley are about to strike a permanent deal in the now open January window for the Manchester City defender currently on loan at the club. Whether that is true or not, he will be key to helping the Clarets keep Leeds at bay on Monday afternoon. He seems to have improved significantly since arriving at the club, both defensively and down the flank. Trippier also seems to have developed the art of the long throw (along with Ben Mee) and is not shy at trying attempts on goal. He has one goal to his name already scored in scintillating fashion at Brighton just before Christmas.
Team & Tactics:
This is a difficult one to call and depends on how much Eddie Howe wants to rotate his squad. He has already indicated that with three games in the space of eight days over the festive period that he does indeed intend to give a lot of his squad players a chance to show what they can prove.
He started that process against Hull City at home on New Year`s Eve. Keith Treacy was given his chance in the starting eleven at the expense of Junior Stanislas who did not even make the bench. Sadly for Treacy he did not really shine that much so he may have lost his chance of making another start. The other question is whether Michael Duff will be fit enough to play following his hamstring injury in the Boxing Day game at home to Doncaster. He was sidelined for the Hull game allowing Mee to start in the centre with Easton taking up the left-back slot.
If Duff is fit enough to play, I can see him making an immediate return to the starting eleven with Mee taking over from Easton at left back.
There is also another question regarding the strike force. Charlie Austin and Sam Vokes have both had to be content with a place on the bench in recent games so could one or both be in line for a starting eleven slot against Leeds? This could all depend on Howe`s tactics and formation. My suspicion is that he will continue with a 4-5-1 formation away from home or more likely a 4-1-4-1 with Dean Marney in the holding midfield role.
Howe has so many options so it is practically impossible to predict this one. I will assume we start 4-1-4-1 and base my prediction on that.
It would be hard to leave out Pato though. He is bang on form and sniffing for goals but how does this sound?
Grant, Trippier, Duff (if fit), Edgar, Mee, Marney, Treacy, McCann, Bartley, Wallace, Rodriguez
Subs: Stewart, Easton, Stanislas, Paterson, Austin (or Vokes)
East Yorkshire referee, Mark Brown gets this War of the Roses clash. Brown`s last game in charge for the Clarets was our season opener at home to Watford back in August last year. He showed just two yellow cards in that game with the Clarets having to settle for a 2-2 draw.
In the 20 games in charge this season, Brown has shown just one red card although has handed out 52 yellows.
We never seem to get much joy these days at Elland Road but we go into this clash with our heads held high after storming up the table over the festive season and now finding ourselves about the Yorkshire outfit.
With Burnley in 7th spot keen to get in the play-offs positions and Leeds in 10th just one point behind the Clarets there is all to play for in this game. A draw would be a great point against this lot and I will go with 2-2. It will be incidentally our first draw in 18 games should we achieve it!
We take a break from our promotion push and turn our attentions to the FA Cup. Premier League new boys, Norwich City will be a strong test for the Clarets as we aim to progress to the 4th round stage of the competition. We face a tough game against them at Carrow Road on Saturday 7th January (Kick-Off 3pm)