The Clarets are in London today for their final match of the season against Crystal Palace. This traditional Sunday final match kicks off at the earlier time of 2pm and what a day this could prove to be for the Eagles.
We have their destiny in our ends. A win for Palace and they are guaranteed to secure the final sixth spot for the play-offs, a draw or a defeat and they are sweating waiting to hear how three other clubs have done. Palace are currently in sixth place spot on 68 points but three clubs are chasing them, Wolves (67 points) and Ipswich and Sheffield United both on 66 points.
A tense day therefore for them at Selhurst Park today whereas the Clarets can relax with nothing to play for other than pride although it would be nice to get the points and finish in 10th spot should Plymouth lose.
We are currently 11th on 62 points, 2 behind Plymouth.
The tenseness could be the downfall of Palace and we could sneak this one although it doesn`t really matter and it is a good job it doesn`t with a crisis in attack.
Am I pleased we don`t have to win this one to reach the play-offs, something that might have looked possible earlier this year.
Our three main strikers are all out injured. Andrew Cole is still recovering from his badly gashed leg following the Purse tackle against Cardiff at home last Saturday.
He required ten stitches and can`t be risked today. Akinbiyi similarly can`t be risked suffering from chest pains and of course Lafferty is also sidelined following his appendix operation.
We can`t even play young striker, Jay Rodriguez due to Scottish legalities preventing him playing after returning from Stirling Albion on loan.
That leaves Robbie Blake and young 18-year old, Alex MacDonald as our only options up front. Alex only last week made his debut after coming on from the bench in the second half against Cardiff at Turf Moor last Saturday.
Blake will definitely play up front probably supported by Mahon on the left wing and Elliott on the right.
The question is whether they will play 4:5:1 or if not 4:4:2 with MacDonald being given his full debut in the starting eleven partnering Blake up front.
This game also sees the return of Kiraly to Selhurst Park for the first time since he signed from Palace in the close season of 2007. I can`t however see him being selected in the starting eleven with Jensen currently the keeper in form.
Michael Duff will also in the back four for his first game since the corresponding fixture at Turf Moor back in September 2007. Now fully recovered from a complicated cruciate ligament injury, the only question is whether he will play as right full back or in central defence.
One further question is whether Harley will take the left back spot from Jordan.
So what will the sixteen look like?
I suggest it could look something like the following:
Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan (or Harley), Elliott, James O`Connor, McCann, Mahon, Blake, MacDonald.
Subs: Kiraly, Alexander, Jordan (or Harley), Gudjonsson, Spicer(or Randall)
‘All managers will take heart from what Palace have done. They have done remarkably well and all credit to them. I have nothing but praise for Neil Warnock. He is a terrific manager and the job he has done is all credit to him.
‘They are on a terrific run and if they get in the play offs I wouldn’t bet against them getting promoted because they are a good footballing side.
‘The one thing about the Championship though is you can’t rest on your laurels. It is a very high level of competition and there are some big, big clubs involved in the relegation battle. We have made progress and if there has been any disappointment it is because we’ve raised the expectation level of what we can do and that’s something I wouldn’t have swapped at any time.
‘It is important now that we continue that and raise the expectation again. When I came here I didn’t make any claims. I think we have shown that we are capable of winning games and with that comes increased expectation.
‘I think people like to come and see the style of football, but what we do have to add is consistency in terms of results. If I have a tinge of disappointment it is that we have drawn and lost games when we have been in total control, so that is something we have to make sure doesn’t follow us into next season.’
Crystal Palace Team News:
Palace could name James Scowcroft in the sixteen following his recovery from a hamstring injury
Matt Lawrence is out having undergone a hernia operation and midfielder Neil Danns is still sidelined with a groin injury.
Player to watch: Clinton Morrison
He’s not called Bam Bam for nothing!
Burnley Team News:
Coyle is faced with a crisis in attack with Cole still recovering from the stitches in his leg after the Purse tackle, Akinbiyi sidelined with chest pains and Lafferty out recovering from his appendix operation. Young Jay Rodriguez currently on loan to Stirling Albion is also out of the frame being ineligible. This means that Blake and 18-year old, Alex MacDonald are our only options up front.
Player to watch: Alex MacDonald
With Cole, Akinbiyi and Lafferty all out of the sixteen, it’s a big chance for young Alex. He made his debut for the Clarets at Turf Moor against Cardiff after coming on from the bench in the second-half but looks set to be in the starting eleven today.
Last Time We Met
The last time we played Palace was at Turf Moor back in September, we got a 1-1 draw that day with Blake getting the goal. However it was also the match that led to tragedy for Michael Duff and a seven month lay-off with cruciate ligament damage.
Last season at Selhurst Park the Clarets came away with a point in a 2-2 draw with Mahon & Lafferty getting the goals back in August 2006.
Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)
Palace have to win this to guarantee their place in the play-offs and we have nothing to play for other than pride and maybe a 10th place finish. The nerves could get to them and I am going for a 0-0 draw
Well that’s it lads for 2007/8, we wil be back in the close season with match previews and reviews of all our friendly games including Accrington Stanley, Rotherham and the Scotland tour matches announced so far.