Date: 20th November 2009 at 10:33am
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The Battle of Claret & Blue Part 1 is set for this Saturday with Aston Villa the visitors to Turf Moor. Part 2 will follow a week after when we travel down to London to face the Hammers, but first we do battle with Martin O`Neill`s men. This will be a tough game for the Clarets against the 5th placed Midlands club, but the club will be rested after the international break and will be keen to continue their good form after getting their first point on the road against high-profile, moneybags Manchester City at Eastlands two weeks ago. The Clarets are doing remarkably well in their first season back in the top flight for 33 years. We are currently in 10th spot just three points behind Liverpool and five behind the Villans. Villa will be buoyed by their 5-1 demolition of Bolton on home soil before the break although their away form has been less than impressive with just two wins on the road this season. All Clarets fans will be hoping for another ‘Fortress Turf Moor` effect on Saturday in an atmospheric game where it is understood Villa have sold-out their allocation of tickets. We will need to be on our guard though against a team containing a number of England internationals including Luke Young, Gabby Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and James Milner. Emile Heskey could also be available if he fully recovers from injury in time. Three points on Saturday and we could be well on the way to surviving our first season in the Premier League. Come on you Clarets!

Predicted Team Sheet

The good news is that all our players on international duty appear to have come back safe and well with no injuries or suspensions so with everybody else rested it looks like the eighteen will once more pick itself. It looks like Owen Coyle will stick with the same line-up we have had for our last three matches against Wigan. Hull and Manchester City and if so the team sheet will be as follows:

Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Eagles, Bikey, Elliott, Blake, Fletcher

Subs: Penny, Duff, Guerrero, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Nugent, Thompson.

If Owen Coyle was tempted to make any changes, then I would suggest one idea might be to replace Bikey with McDonald. Kevin scored his first Premier League goal against Manchester City before the break; a crucial goal that brought the scores level at 3-3 and ensured we got a valuable point, our first on the road this season. However, McDonald did play the whole of the match for the Scotland under 21s in Azerbaijan last Saturday whereas Bikey did not feature for Cameroon in their match in Morocco. Andre Bikey, who has perhaps been a bit under par in recent games playing in midfield, could have benefited from the rest and therefore looks the most likely to start.

Burnley Team News:

There is no news of any fresh injuries to worry about with those players returning from international duty free from injury or suspension.

Owen Coyle therefore has virtually the whole squad to choose from apart from of course our players out with long-term injury namely Martin Paterson, Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez.

Player to watch: Tyrone Mears

Mears has been in the news recently as a possible contender for the England right back position and has been strongly supported in this by Owen Coyle. All eyes will now be on his performances, including hopefully those of Fabio Capello so it is vitally important he takes every opportunity to shine. He will be given a good chance to impress this Saturday against high-flying Villa.

Aston Villa Team News:

Both James Collins and Emile Heskey could be fit for this clash with both making good progress after picking up injuries.

Collins picked up a groin strain two weeks ago with the central defender missing the 5-1 tonking of Bolton. Emile Heskey was also sidelined after suffering a back spasm against the Hammers in their previous game.

Martin O`Neill also seems to be bigging up their young talent, England Under-19 striker Nathan Delfouneso.

O’Neill said: ‘I have known now Nathan for some quite considerable time. He got on in the game on Saturday week (against Bolton) and he’s got the utmost potential. I think he has got a real proper future in the game. He has got stronger too as time has gone on and he is really knocking on the door of the Premier League for us.’

We could expect therefore that Delfouneso might be named in the eighteen and a place on the bench at least looks likely.

This clash though comes too soon for England international left winger, Stewart Downing. He is still some way from returning to full fitness but is now back in training after sustaining a fractured foot whilst playing for his former club, Middlesbrough against Villa of all teams at the end of last season. The £12 million signing looks set to return sometime in December.

Player to watch: James Milner

With so much talent on show, it is difficult to select just one player to watch. It would have been easy to plump for their top scorer and England international striker, Gabriel Agbonlahor but the danger man is more likely to be England international winger, James Milner and it`s vitally important we somehow keep him quiet.

Milner joined Villa from Newcastle in August 2008 for a fee of £12 million and signed a four-year contract with the club.

Back to the Future

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 greater things. They would win the League Cup in 1977 (as they did in 1975) and would then embark on their heyday of the early 80s winning the Division One title in 1980-81 before going on to secure the European Cup in 1982.

We have of course played Aston Villa since 1976 but surprisingly only twice both in the Carling Cup. We defeated Villa at Turf Moor 3-1 back in October 2004 before going down 1-0 at Villa Park exactly a year later!

Ref Watch:

The imposing figure of 6ft 3 Rotherham referee Howard Webb will be on show in this clash. He is a highly rated Premier League referee and has just returned from Under-17 World Cup duties in Nigeria.

Match Prediction:

I think it is vitally important we score the first goal, if we can do that I see us being winners 2-1. If we go a goal down we will have a fight on our hands and we will do amazingly well to get an equaliser.

Next Game

We travel to East London for a game against West Ham at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday 28th November @3pm Kick Off. This could be a vital six-pointer with West Ham struggling third from bottom and should be one of the easier games on the road for us.