The Clarets Championship campaign starts in earnest on Saturday with the long-awaited opener against Owen Coyle`s Bolton at Turf Moor
The 2012-13 Championship season kicks-off this Saturday as if we didn`t know! All Clarets fans of course have been waiting for the season opener with bated breath considering the opposition will be none other than newly relegated Bolton Wanderers at Turf Moor. So it`s the return of hate figure and former gaffer, Owen Coyle this Saturday and what a reception he is likely to receive from Burnley fans!
The Clarets have had a relatively good pre-season campaign and they will also have been buoyed up by their midweek 3-1 victory over Port Vale in the Capital One Cup clash at Vale Park so confidence should be high going into this high-profile game with so much emotional baggage attached to it! It is vital we get the campaign off to a good start and what better way to do it against the men from Horwich. We have two tricky away games coming up after Saturday with a midweek game against Middlesbrough followed by a visit to Huddersfield and it would be good to go into those games with at least three points already in the bag.
Bolton`s pre-season has been somewhat indifferent. They did manage to beat Morecambe and Tranmere on their travels but a less than inspiring 1-1 draw at Crewe and defeats at Hamilton (2-0) and Portsmouth (3-0) have taken the gloss off Owen Coyle`s preparations. They are crowing about a 2-2 draw with Barcelona at the Reebok in their final pre-season friendly although if you look closely it was a Barca B team!!
Burnley Team News:
Marvin Bartley (ankle) looks set to remain sidelined whilst Danny Ings will be out of action for 3-6 months after tearing his cartilage in the pre-season defeat away to Rochdale. Keith Treacy also had to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland squad in midweek after still suffering with a slight groin problem. It remains to be seen if he will be in contention for the Bolton clash.
Three players though Martin Paterson, Danny Lafferty and Sam Vokes all return from International duty having missed the Port Vale game on Tuesday night and all three could be under consideration for Saturday`s game.
Player to watch: Jason Shackell
This will be a true test for the newly signed player and our new captain. If he can steer the lads to victory in this one and hold the back four together, our season will have got off to a great start and the lads will be brimming full of confidence ahead of two tricky away games.
Bolton Wanderers Team News:
Both former Clarets defender, Tyrone Mears and winger, Chung-Yong Lee are back to full fitness and could be in contention to play this Saturday. David Wheater however was told back in May that he faced a nine-month layoff after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in a game against West Brom. A number of new summer signings could also make their Championship debuts for Bolton including Andy Lonergan, Matt Mills, Keith Andrews and loan Arsenal striker, Benik Afobe. Young former Clarets midfielder, Joe McKee is now also on Bolton`s books but is unlikely to feature unless he is one of the seven substitutes. Coyle is also struggling to keep hold of Mark Davies with Premier League, Swansea City having already had a £4m bid for the Bolton midfielder rejected but likely to up the ante!
Player to watch: Chris Eagles
Well it will certainly be interesting to see what sort of reception Eagles gets at Turf Moor. He left the club to join Bolton of course last summer realising his ambition to play in the top flight (along with Tyrone Mears who could also feature on Saturday). What sort of motivation will he now have now he`s back playing Championship football? Let`s hope its low!!
Team & Tactics:
Apart from Ings, Bartley and probably Treacy, Eddie Howe has virtually all of his first team squad to select from and it will be interesting to see who he selects for our first game of the new Championship season. Will he be tempted to be more defence minded with the normally attack minded Owen Coyle in charge of the opposition or will he try and exploit Coyle`s well-known defensive weaknesses? Could we see 4-4-2 formation or a possible variation of 4-5-1 with a holding midfielder? With Howe experimenting with formations in the summer even including the diamond variety, it is difficult to predict with certainty what the starting eleven and tactics will be. Despite the injury to Ings we still have a number of options in attack and with the substitutes bench now back to seven players there is considerable scope for Howe to think about.
I would prefer though if we played some sort of 4-4-2 with two strikers up front and the obvious choice would be to have Vokes and Austin partnering each other although Pato might have something to say about that! The difficulty then could be incorporating three central midfielders with Stock now on board and McCann (especially) and Marney playing well. Could Stock play again in front of the back four releasing McCann and/or Marney? I think one of those players will be dropped to the bench to allow 4-4-2 and two orthodox wingers with two central midfielders.
This would be my eighteen then:
Grant, Trippier, Shackell, Edgar, Lafferty, Wallace, Stock, McCann, Stanislas, Vokes, Austin Subsititutes: Jensen, Mills, Mee, Duff, Marney, Porter, Paterson
That bench would give us a number of tactical options and also more critically defensive cover should we pick up any injuries during the game
West Yorkshire referee, Jonathan Moss gets this juicy fixture! We may have to watch out if the game gets niggly. He handed out basically one red card in every three games last season. In his 32 games during 2011-12, which incidentally did not involve a Clarets match, he sent off 11 players also dishing out 112 yellow cards. His last game involving Burnley was our 2-0 away defeat to Forest two seasons ago back in April 2011.
Well putting aside all the emotional aspects of this game and the Coyle factor, this will still be a hard one to win against a former Premier League club. Burnley though could be higher on confidence following a better summer and the recent Capital Cup win away to Port Vale. It will be a tight game though and it could be decided by one goal. With our defence looking much stronger this season, I will go with a 1-0 victory to the Clarets.
The Clarets face two away games in a week now. First they have a tricky game at the Riverside playing Middlesbrough on the night of Tuesday 21st August (Kick-Off-7:45pm) and they are then off to Huddersfield to play the newly promoted Terriers in their newly named John Smith`s Stadium (formerly Galpharm) on Saturday 25th August (Kick-Off-3pm)