Date: 6th October 2012 at 10:33am
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Burnley face a tough challenge this Saturday when they play the Championship`s current top in-form team, Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

The Pre-amble:

Burnley are playing with such inconsistency at the moment that our season could go either way. Currently in 15th spot we are only three points off the drop zone but no doubt the ‘glass half-full types` will be reminding everybody that we are also only five points behind sixed-placed club Wolves. The trouble for the Clarets is not so much scoring but leaking goals at the other end. Burnley have scored 18 goals in the Championship this season and only Blackpool, who we face next at home after the International break with 19 goals can better that. Charlie Austin of course has been our in-form striker this season and he currently leads the Championship Top Scorers table with eleven goals (fourteen in all competitions). He is on fire and of course scored a hat-trick in our last game at home to Sheffield Wednesday last Tuesday night. That game though clearly highlighted our defensive problems with Burnley three times taking the lead and three times being pegged back in a match that ended 3-3 against a team who have leaked the most goals in the Championship. The Owls have let in 20 goals so far this season, but that is only two more though than the Clarets. Quite clearly then we are going to have to tighten up in defence if we are to start moving in the right direction up the table. Our next test will be a challenge too with Burnley playing Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park this Saturday.

Palace are currently the in-form team in the Championship with Dougie Freedman`s team having picked up sixteen points from their last available eighteen. The seventh-placed Eagles are also looking for a fourth successive league win a feat they last achieved back in December 2007. Ominously for our leaky defence, Palace are one of only three clubs to have found the back of the net in all nine Championship games so far this season. If the Clarets do manage to win their second successive league game though they will move to within two points of the Eagles who currently have sixteen points from nine games compared to Burnley`s eleven.

Crystal Palace Team News:

Striker, Wilfried Zaha suffered a hamstring strain during the Eagles’ 2-1 win at Wolves on Tuesday night and remains doubtful for the Burnley game. Kagashi Dikgacoi missed the game at Molineux with a groin strain and the midfielder is rated only 50-50 for Saturday`s match. Defender, Peter Ramage who has now recovered from a thigh problem is battling it out for a starting place. Paddy McCarthy is however suffering from a long-term groin problem and the defender will not feature.

Player to watch: Glenn Murray

Murray is the Eagles leading goal-scorer this season with six Championship goals so far. The 29 year old striker joined Palace from arch-rivals, Brighton in May 2011 on a free transfer, signing a three-year contract. He netted 53 goals in 118 appearances for Brighton and so far for Palace has notched up 12 goals from 44 matches.

Burnley Team News:

Burnley captain, Jason Shackell was again absent missing the home match against Sheffield Wednesday at Turf Moor in midweek. He is struggling with a hamstring injury and has been sidelined for the last two matches. He remains a doubt and looks set to face a late fitness test. The problems in the centre of defence could become a headache for Eddie Howe if Michael Duff is also sidelined. He picked up a knee injury in the Owls game on Tuesday night. Chris McCann also missed out on Tuesday night suffering from a minor knock but he could return replacing Brian Stock.

Player to watch: Martin Paterson

Paterson has been living in the shadow of Charlie Austin in recent matches and will be keen to start getting on the score sheet himself. The club are still treading carefully with Pato in view of his injury proneness but in recent games, he has begun to play longer than the normal 60 minutes before being substituted. If Paterson starts scoring as well alongside Austin we would have one of the most effective striking partnership`s in the Championship!

Team & Tactics:

Burnley are sweating over the fitness of both Shackell and Duff which could present a problem for Howe in the centre of defence. Ben Mee though is predominantly a centre back and he could be drafted into the middle of the back four in partnership with Edgar allowing Mills to return to the starting eleven at left back. Another alternative could be to give Kevin Long his first start but that could be risky given the current form of Palace. Chris McCann also missed the last game with a knock and if he is fit enough to play it will be interesting to see if he regains the starting eleven place from Brian Stock. If both Shackell and Duff are still sidelined, I would plump for the following line-up:

Grant, Trippier, Mee, Edgar, Mills, Wallace, McCann (or Stock), Marney, Stanislas, Austin, Paterson

Subs: Jensen, Long, O`Neill, Stock(or McCann), Bartley, Stewart, Vokes

Ref Watch:

Wiltshire referee, Roger East is in charge of this clash. He is quite modest in his card showing. Last season he only showed a red card in roughly one in seven games with six players being sent off in 45 matches. Another 126 saw yellow! This seasons tally from 12 games so far is 2 reds and 34 yellows. You have to go back two seasons for the last time this referee was in charge of a game involving the Clarets. The match was away to Cardiff City back in February 2011 and finished 1-1 with no cards shown that day.

Match Prediction:

You could argue the Clarets are undefeated in three Championship games but with the loss of four points from our last two games, both at home against clubs hovering in and around the relegation zone it will be no easy task to keep Palace at bay. The Eagles with one eye on a play-offs spot in 7th place will be eager to notch up their fourth successive win and Selhurst Park has not been a happy hunting ground for the Clarets over recent seasons. Palace are defending an eight-match unbeaten home league run against Burnley. Remarkably they have also kept a clean sheet in six of those games including the last four. We will be lucky to come away with any points considering also that the Eagles are the Championship`s top in-form team at the moment but that is just the sort of situation Burnley often seem to relish so I will plump for a 1-1 draw.

Next Match:

There will now be an International break with the Clarets returning to action in two weeks time when they will face high-flying Blackpool in a local derby at Turf Moor on Saturday 20th October. This clash will be televised live by Sky Sports and Clarets fans are reminded that the game kicks off late at 5:20pm.