Date: 16th March 2013 at 8:59am
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It`s the big derby for the Clarets this Sunday. Yes Burnley travel to Ewood Park looking for some joy after a recent torrid spell and what better way to lift spirits than with a victory over that smug lot down the road?

The Pre-amble:

The Big East Lancashire Derby is upon us this Sunday when all Clarets fans will be boarding the ‘Deadwood Stage` for the coach procession into Ewood Park. Burnley fans have been having a torrid time of late with just one win to celebrate in nine games and boy do we need something to cheer us up! A win over Blackburn would go some way to lifting spirits in what has generally been a poor, disappointing season. The truth of the matter is that both Blackburn and Burnley have struggled this season to make any real impression in the Championship and both look set to finish somewhere in mid-table. Rovers expectations though would have been higher following their demotion from the top flight last season but their hopes have been dashed and at least one more season in the second flight beckons for them. Burnley are currently three points ahead of Blackburn but have played a game more. The Clarets are in 11th place on 48 points but that is already a massive nine points behind Nottingham Forest who currently sit in that coveted sixth-place spot and last play-offs place. The task for Rovers in 16th spot looks even harder especially if they don`t win their game in hand. The play-offs though are still mathematically possible for both clubs but let`s face it this clash is more about earning ‘bragging rights` than mounting a serious challenge for promotion with just eight games left to play after the derby game this Sunday. The parallels between the two clubs this season have been quite remarkable with both seeing managerial changes and both seemingly relying on one key striker namely Charlie Austin for Burnley with 26 goals and Jason Rhodes for Blackburn with 21 goals so far this season. Their form is also pretty comparable at the moment. Rovers have not won in six games in the Championship whereas the Clarets have also suffered five defeats in the last nine matches. Burnley though will hopefully be able take advantage of Rovers exit from the FA Cup in midweek. Blackburn lost 1-0 at home to Millwall in the quarter-final replay. Their exit will hopefully have dented confidence and this along with their massive injury list could give the Clarets a psychological advantage and boy do we need to take it! The ‘Deadwood Stage` is set for the next battle in the long history between these two deadly rivals. Come on you Clarets!

Blackburn Rovers Team News:

Rovers` gaffer, Michael Appleton certainly has plenty of concerns ahead of this clash with a mounting injury list to contend with. DJ Campbell, Josh King and Markus Olsson are among the latest to require treatment for injuries. Striker, DJ Campbell on loan from QPR sustained ankle damage during training at the end of last week. He missed out on the FA Cup defeat to Millwall on Wednesday night and watched the match wearing a protective boot. Both wingers, King and Olson left the pitch against Millwall suffering from hamstring injuries but it is though both could recover in time for ten derby clash. Young striker Anton Forrester came on for a first-team debut in place of King against the Lions but then he too tweaked his hamstring in Blackburn’s Under-21 side on Thursday. Bradley Orr (ribs) is also sidelined whilst fellow right-back Adam Henley (hamstring) looks like he could be out for the rest of the season joining Dickson Etuhu (knee). Forward Colin Kazim-Richards and midfielder Lee Williamson also remain out of contention due to ankle problems. David Bentley also suffered medial knee-ligament damage in the initial game at Millwall last weekend adding to the injury crisis at Ewood Park. A number of players though cup-tied on Wednesday night could now make a return including former Burnley loan and Hull City winger, Cameron Stewart. Stewart signed on loan for Rovers recently and could line-up against his former club. Josh Morris and David Jones are the other loan players who could feature. Appleton also on Friday signed 19 year old right back, Todd Kane from Chelsea on a one-month loan for the second time this season.

Player to watch: Cameron Stewart

Rovers completed the signing of winger Cameron Stewart on loan from Hull at the end of last month. The 21 year old will now spend the remainder of the season on loan at Ewood Park and could feature against his former club on Sunday. Stewart of course spent the first half of the season on loan at Burnley and is now in the pretty unique situation of having played for both deadly East Lancs rivals in the same season! The former Manchester United youth made just two starts and seven appearances as a substitute for the Clarets, but failed to impress Sean Dyche. He better not impress on Sunday!!

Burnley Team News:

In contrast to Rovers, Burnley have virtually a full squad to choose from. Ben Mee, Michael Duff and Ross Wallace are all now fit again and indeed featured in the Hull game at Turf Moor on Monday night. The only injury concern now is Dean Marney. Marney has missed the last three games and is once again struggling with the calf complaint that has kept him out of action so far this month.

Player to watch: Keith Treacy

It will be interesting to see if Treacy gets the chance to play against his former club. He did make a start on Monday night against Hull City but was substituted early in the second half after failing to impress. It continues to be a topsy-turvy season for Treacy. He seems to now be in contention more-and-more but still seems to blow hot-and-cold performance wise. It would be fitting if he returned to form against his former club and gave them the run-around.!

Team & Tactics:

Sean Dyche certainly has a number of options with only Marney looking doubtful. With virtually a full squad to choose from who will be in contention for a start? It could be a dilemma for the gaffer, he made five changes for the live Sky televised game against Hull on Monday night but let`s be honest the performance was dire! The tactics simply did not work and we could not find a way to break down the Tigers defence. The problem is also that the line-up in the previous game at home to Barnsley also struggled so what does Dyche do now? Both Kevin Long and Danny Lafferty were dropped to the bench on Monday night despite having impressed in recent games. Dyche chose to bring back fit again defenders, Michael Duff and Ben Mee. So will he go for experience again? I suspect he will. The problem on Monday night was not so much the defence but trying to find a way through from midfield into attack. Blackburn should be easier to breakdown than Hull but it`s a question of which line-up and formation will give us the best chance of doing so. I am adamant that Austin needs support up front. He continues to look isolated when not playing a true 4-4-2. With just one win in nine games, it is time to try something new. Let`s for heaven`s sake start Vokes up front with Austin and select our best options on the wing. My feeling is that Stanislas and Wallace give the line-up more balance and our new loan from Fulham, Kacaniklic has not exactly set the world alight so far. Trying the likes of Paterson and Ings out wide for me never really works and if you are going to play them then use them as true strikers. I would go with the following eighteen but there are a number of options that could equally work :

Grant, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Mee, Stanislas McCann, Edgar, Wallace, Austin, Vokes

Subs: Jensen, Lafferty, Long, Bartley or Kacaniklic, Treacy, Ings, Paterson

Ref Watch:

Essex referee, Andy D`Urso gets the big East Lancs derby! He only recently featured in a Clarets match being in charge of the clash at London Road last month. We drew 2-2 with Peterborough that day and just two yellow cards were shown. His card tally for the season now stands at five reds and seventy three yellows from 32 games.

Match Prediction:

Rovers have had the bragging rights for far too many seasons now. Burnley are looking for their first win over Blackburn for 34 years although that in terms of clashes is actually only a run spanning nine matches. It is the Clarets turn for victory with only one win in the last nine matches at this level. Our season in terms of reaching the play-offs looks to be over and the only joy could be to beat Rovers on their home territory and finish above them in the Championship! The teams are pretty evenly matched to be honest so anything could happen but let`s do it this time! 2-1 Clarets

Next Match:

The International break is upon us and the Clarets won`t be back in action until Good Friday 29th March when they travel to Watford (3pm Kick-off) for a clash at Vicarage Road). Their Easter Monday fixture will at home to Nottingham Forest (3pm Kick-off).