Burnley face a visit to Villa Park this Sunday still looking for that first elusive away win of the season. The Clarets are struggling 2nd from bottom at the moment and they will be keen to get something from this match in an effort to keep their survival hopes alive.
Aston Villa have been inconsistent of late but are still a very strong side and are currently in 7th spot just three points behind the coveted 4th place. Villa Park has been a bit of a bogey ground over the years although since 1966 Burnley have been unbeaten in their last seven league matches against Aston Villa including three visits to Villa Park. The task to win though on Sunday will be a difficult one. Villa are unbeaten in five league games, but have only won once in the last seven but then the Clarets have only won one of their last 14 league matches and have the worst away record in the Premier League. Let the Battle of the Claret & Blue begin!
Clarets fans are reminded that as well as being on a Sunday this Sky-live televised game kicks-off at 2pm.
Predicted Team Sheet
Laws tried an unexpected line-up against Fulham in our last game at Craven Cottage. He started with David Edgar at left-back with new signing, Danny Fox brought in as a left-back playing just in front of him in midfield. Cort though in the centre of defence was injured after 32 minutes so Edgar went back into his more familiar central defence role with Fox now playing at left back.
It is difficult to predict whether Laws will be tempted to try the same line-up that faced Fulham but in all honesty I don`t think the experiment was working and I hope we return more to the team that finished the game at Fulham even though it was probably our least impressive match on the road this season and we went down to a poor 3-0 defeat.
Wade Elliott is having a very poor spell and he was our worst player at Craven Cottage. Brian Laws should be tempted to rest the player or at least have him on the bench rather than the starting eleven. I just suspect though he will give him another chance.
It will be interesting to see if our new loan signing from Chelsea, Jack Cork sees some action again. He came on from the bench in the second half to make his Clarets debut against Fulham and looked impressive. Whether Laws will give him a starting eleven chance remains to be seen but I suspect that once more he will be on the bench.
I will go with this eighteen
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Fox, Bikey, Elliott. McDonald, Eagles, Nugent, Fletcher.
Subs: Weaver, Edgar, Duff, Blake, Cork, Thompson, Paterson
Aston Villa Team News:
Aston Villa hope to have strikers Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey available for the clash of the Claret & Blues this Sunday. Agbonlahor missed Villa`s FA Cup tie at Crystal Palace last weekend after picking up a leg injury in the Premier League game against Manchester United. Heskey also picked up a groin strain and had to be substituted in the Palace game but both strikers were in training this week and look set to feature.
Villa captian, Stiliyan Petrov has battled on despite having niggling ankle and Achilles problems and looks set for a starting place again. Full-back Stephen Warnock made his comeback from a shin injury against Palace so should be available for selection.
Midfielder, Nigel Reo-Coker (ankle) though is still sidelined along with left-back, Wilfred Bouma (ankle)
Striker Marlon Harewood is currently out on loan to Newcastle but is also injured with a broken metatarsal
Player to watch: Stewart Downing
England International left-winger, Stewart Downing was signed by Villa in the 2009 summer transfer window for a fee of £10 million (with appearance add-ons). He moved after his former club, Middlesbrough were relegated to the Championship signing a four year contract.
He had to wait some time to make his debut for Villa though. In the penultimate match of the 2008-9 season, he suffered a foot injury in a home game against curiously enough against Aston Villa last May. The injury which required an operation would keep the winger sidelined for some months.
He would finally make his debut for Villa against the Clarets in our match at Turf Moor last November after coming on as a substitute for Steve Sidwell.
Downing is now a regular in the side and is beginning to look more and more impressive. His inclusion on the left wing has allowed James Milner to move into a more central midfield role and this engine room will need to be carefully watched on Sunday.
Burnley Team News:
Leon Cort is in contention after recovering from a groin injury that saw him substituted in our last game away to Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Both Graham Alexander (calf) and Chris McCann (knee) look unlikely to feature.
Captain Steven Caldwell is also still sidelined with a persistent long-term groin injury.
Player to watch: Wade Elliott
Wade has been very poor of late and there have been many calls from Clarets fans for him to be dropped.
If Laws still persists in playing him against Aston Villa, Wado really does need to start delivering and surely he will have to put in a good performance this time to be considered for selection in our next match against Portsmouth next Saturday.
All eyes therefore will be on Elliott this Sunday so let`s hope he puts in some effort and the Clarets fans don`t have to get on his back.
Back to the Future
The last time we played Aston Villa was of course earlier this season when they came to Turf Moor back in November last year. Burnley looked to have secured all three points after a Steven Caldwell header had put the Clarets 1-0 up after just nine minutes. The Clarets had been impressive in the first-half but Villa came back at them hard in the second half. We looked like we might just hold on but in the 86th minute, pesky Heskey headed home a James Milner cross after Brian Jensen had unconvincingly punched the ball clear from a corner. Heskey had only just on from the bench six minutes earlier and his equaliser was a sickener for all Clarets fans. 1-1 the final score.
Back in the 1975-76 season, the last time Burnley were in the top flight before this season, Aston Villa had just been promoted as runners-up from the old second division and we first faced them at Villa Park on Saturday 25th October 1975 in front of a crowd of 34242 fans. Ron Saunders was their manager back then and their team contained some notable names including Andy Gray (yes the one that does Sky Sports!), Brian Little and stalwart Charlie Aitkin. In this clash the Clarets came away with a worthy point after a 1-1 draw. Noble had put us ahead after 60 minutes but an own goal 18 minutes later prevented a rare away win at this bogey ground. >In the return match at Turf Moor on Saturday 28th February 1976, we had a new manager now in charge with Joe Brown having replaced Jimmy Adamson at the turn of the year. A crowd of 17174 saw a thrilling game end 2-2. Villa took a two goal lead with goals after 17 and 20 minutes but we fought back strongly on either side of half-time with a brace from Flynn who scored after 40 and 47 minutes. Sadly this was still a point lost in the fight to avoid relegation. We would of course lose that battle and finish second from bottom and start 33 years in the wilderness. Villa on the other hand would finish a creditable 16th for a promoted side and would go on to
Warwickshire referee, Stuart Attwell takes charge of this one. He is one of the youngest referees in the business at just 27. Attwell has been fast-tracked through the refereeing system, having started in 1998 and promoted to the National List of Referees in 2007. He was the youngest person to referee in the Premier League in August 2008, at 25-years-old, and was confirmed as England`s youngest international Referee when he was named on the FIFA list in December 2008.
This may be a good omen but Attwell`s only other game in charge this season involving the Clarets was against Manchester City at Eastlands where so far we have gained our only point on the road.
How many times this season have I predicted a draw or a win in our away games? I will tell you all of them! I simply can`t bring myself to predict a loss! Sadly for the Clarets we have just one point from 13 attempts on the road this season. Burnley have the worst away record in Premer League history and everybody keeps reminding us of that fact. Now we seek our first win of the season against high-flying Aston Villa who have kept eight clean sheets in their last 11 top-flight matches.
Villa are unbeaten in the Premier League in 2010 so far but they have drawn three of their last four matches so I will take some comfort from that last statistic and plump for another draw. 1-1 and you never know the law of averages might intervene and allow us to nick it!
Tall order though considering we have not even scored on the road now in nine hours of playing football and have conceded an average two goals per game!
My hope of course is that Villa will have Wembley on their mind and their Carling Cup Final against Manchester United exactly one week after our clash. Let`s hope they take their eye off the ball in our game with their minds elsewhere.
Our next game should be relatively straightforward for the Clarets. Financially-stricken, bottom club Portsmouth come to Turf Moor on Saturday 27th February 2009 where three points will be vital to our relegation survival hopes. Pompey face a winding-up hearing two days later on Monday 1st March and if they decide to liquidate the club rather than force them into administration, we could find those three points scratched off if we win the game. The clubs who have gained points off Portsmouth this season will also lose them.
In view of the fact we lost at Fratton Park whilst other clubs in the relegation battle have gained points against Portsmouth, liquidation of the Hampshire could help our survival chances. Whilst you would have sympathy for the plight of Portsmouth and especially their long-suffering fans, if those in charge fail in their financial duty then they can`t be allowed to get away with it. If they decide instead to put the club into administration, they will be deducted nine points and they will then almost certainly be relegated in bottom place.