Date: 8th March 2014 at 8:52am
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On Sky

It`s a big day on Sunday when Burnley face their deadly rivals Blackburn Rovers in the infamous East Lancashire derby at Ewood Park. Three points have never been so vital with Burnley hoping to consolidate second spot and continue their push for automatic promotion.

The Pre-amble:

Clarets fans will be taking the Deadwood Stage this Sunday for their now annual pilgrimage in convoy down the M65 to see their team play their East Lancashire arch-rivals, Blackburn Rovers. The clash at Ewood Park will hopefully be one helluva Whip-Crack Away day for all Clarets victory. Fans are reminded that this is an early kick-off at 12:30pm and always was going to be even before Sky Sports stepped in deciding to cover the game live! Burnley fans will be hoping and praying that for once we get some good fortune and finally get a victory under our belt for the first time in 35 years of hurt. Certainly if the form book is anything to go by, this should be our day although nothing usually goes according to plan in derby games.

Burnley at the time of writing ahead of the Saturday games are currently in second spot with 66 points from 33 games, five points clear of our nearest rival, Derby County in third and nine points clear of QPR in fourth who also have a game in hand. The Clarets also have a vastly superior goal difference over the chasing pack with the second best in the Championship on plus 26. Only league leaders, Leicester City still eight points ahead of the Clarets can better that with plus 30. The comforting news is that by the time we kick-off on Sunday we will still be in second spot even if Derby beat Millwall in their Saturday game at Pride Park. How nice it would be though to stay at least five points clear of them and full further ahead of the chasing pack with sweet victory over Rovers.

Gary Bowyer`s men are still looking to reach the play-offs but have been a little off the pace in recent times and indeed suffered a 4-0 heavy defeat away to Bolton in their game last Saturday. Hopefully Burnley can take psychological advantage of that defeat and put Rovers under some early pressure to test their confidence. The loss sees Blackburn in 10th spot with 46 points and although they do have a game in hand over most of the promotion chasers including the Clarets, they are still six points behind sixth-placed club, Wigan and a massive 20 points behind Burnley.

Come on you Clarets, the bragging rights need to be travelling to the opposite end of the M65 for a change.

Blackburn Rovers Team News:

Gary Bowyer has a number of injury headaches to worry about unlike his opposite number Sean Dyche who has the luxury of a full squad to choose from.

There are doubts surrounding both captain Grant Hanley (calf) and Matt Kilgallon (groin) in the centre of defence but on Friday, centre back Michael Keane arrived on loan from Manchester United and he looks set to make a start on Sunday. Midfielder, Tom Cairney who only signed permanently in January following a loan from Hull is struggling with a calf complaint while Josh King (hamstring) has not played since the beginning of February although he is back in full training. Winger Ben Marshall (ankle) will definitely be sidelined along with Dickson Etuhu (ankle.

Arch-Burnley nemesis, David Dunn, who scored a controversial injury-time equaliser in this fixture last March, is also making progress after picking up a knock and missing the 4-0 loss at Bolton last weekend. No doubt he will feature (boo,hiss)

Player to watch: Michael Keane

Keane looks set to make his debut against the Clarets after signing on loan from Manchester United until the end of the season this week. The 21 year old centre back only signed yesterday (Friday 7th) and looks set for a baptism of fire in the starting eleven in light of injuries to centre backs, Grant Hanley and Matt Kilgallon. The Clarets will need to try and unsettle the former Leicester City and Derby County defender before he gets used to playing with his new colleagues.

Burnley Team News:

Sean Dyche once again appears to have the luxury of virtually a fully fit squad to choose from and could name the same starting eleven for the eighth game running. Only Brian Stock is currently on the treatment table for a twisted back problem. Ings and Vokes were on international duty during the week but appear to have come through their games unscathed.

Player to watch: David Jones

Jones was on the score sheet against Derby at Turf Moor last week and the midfielder will be keen to add to his tally against his former club. Whether he scores or not, his performance in centre midfield along with Dean Marney will be crucial to our chances of victory and all Clarets fans will be hoping the ‘engine room` is buzzing on Sunday.

Team & Tactics:

It looks like Sean Dyche might be ready to name the same eighteen as last week`s Derby game. If that is the case it will be the fourth game in succession he has not made any changes to his match day squad and indeed it will be the eighth time he has been able to select the same starting eleven. Could Dyche be tempted to change anything? I suspect not although he might favour former Rovers winger, Keith Treacy ahead of Michael Kightly or indeed give Ross Wallace his first start since returning from injury. Might the gaffer be more defence minded away from home and consider having more back four options on the bench? No doubt Danny Lafferty will be hoping so with Dyche preferring to name three wingers on the bench at his expense in recent games. Why change a winning formula though? No, I fully expect the same eighteen to be named unless there are any least minute injury concerns in which case we will line up as follows:

Heaton, Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Arfield, Jones, Marney, Kightly, Vokes, Ings

Subs: Cisak, Long, Edgar, Treacy, Stanislas, Wallace, Barnes

Ref Watch:

Premier League referee Mike Dean has been given the task of controlling this pot-boiler of a derby. It will be his first match involving the Clarets since September 2012 and just two yellow cards were shown that day when we played Peterborough at Turf Moor. Hopefully that will be a good omen since we inflicted a 5-2 defeat on Posh that day. The Wirral referee has been in charge of 27 games so far this season and has sent off six players flashing a yellow card at 97 more!

Match Prediction:

Rovers fans continually like to remind Clarets that it`s been 35 years since we truly had the bragging rights over them. We have not managed to beat them in all that time although the truth is we have only played them twelve times since our last victory, a 2-1 win at Ewood Park in April 1979! We are nevertheless due a win and a bit of good fortune for a change against our bitter East Lancs rivals. The last three games have all ended in a 1-1 draw usually involving last minute goals and controversial incidents. The form book says we should be able to get all three points this time but this is a derby game and anything can happen. If we stay focussed though and play like we did against Forest and Derby at home in our last two games we should have the upper hand and a great morale boosting victory could be ours further cementing our automatic promotion chances. 2-1 Clarets!

Next Match:

It always seems like an anti-climax in the next game following the East Lancs derby and this looks likely to be the case again. During the week on the night of Wednesday 12th March we travel to St Andrews and square up to Birmingham City. (Kick-Off-7:45pm) On Saturday 15th March however there is a more juicy game coming up with a Wars of the Roses clash against Leeds United at Turf Moor (Kick-Off: 3pm)