Date:Friday February 13 2009
Saturday 14th February
The Clarets have a chance this Saturday (14th February, Valentine`s Day) to maintain their push for a play-offs position although it won`t be easy with League leaders, Wolves the visitors to Turf Moor.
Burnley are currently in 10th spot with 47 points amongst a play-offs chasing pack of seven clubs including Cardiff in 4th place on 51 points (with games in hand) and Preston in 6th on 50 points (played one more game than the Clarets).
We simply have to keep winning at home and getting what we can away, if we are to secure one of the play-offs spots come May.
At the moment though we are playing well and seem to have recovered from the festive slump that saw us go five league games without a point. Two consecutive wins against Charlton at home followed by Premier League side West Brom in the FA Cup 4th Round replay was then followed last Saturday by a good point at St Andrews against 3rd placed Birmingham.
Turf Moor has been a lucky ground though for the men in Old Gold in recent times and we will need to be on our guard. We have been defeated at Turf Moor now in the last three seasons, so it`s time to put a stop to that run.
Wolves are currently of course top of the Championship but they have wobbled in recent times and are beatable. They have only won one out of their last eight matches in the league with 4 draws and 3 defeats.
This will be the Clarets 43rd game of the season and thankfully so far our relatively small squad has shown little sign of tiring.
It looks like also for the first time in sometime we will have virtually the whole squad to choose from with the obvious exception of loan Russell Anderson out with long-term cruciate ligament damage and not counting the four players out on loan (Kiraly, Jones, Berisha and van der Schaaf).
The squad will also have rested up this week having been given the luxury of no midweek match for the first time in nine weeks. That is apart from Martin Paterson who played for Northern Ireland in their 3-0 defeat of San Marino last Wednesday night. He was substituted in the match after 76 minutes but seems to have come through unscathed. Rhys Williams was also on International duty for Wales but was named on the bench and didn`t feature.
We have no players out with suspensions and the one injured player of late, Stephen Jordan was back in training this week and could be available after recovering from a knee ligament injury. He will have to fight for the left back spot though with Kalvenes making that position his own in recent weeks and I suspect Coyle won`t rush into bringing him back too early.
I think Coyle will probably name a similar eleven to the one that played against Brum last Saturday except Eagles will probably get in the starting eleven after recovering from a chest infection and coming on from the bench in the last match.
Alexander may well return to his holding midfield role rather than the straight midfield role he had in the 4-4-2 of last week. One of the problems with accommodating both Alexander and Eagles in the team is choosing which two from Blake, Paterson and Thompson will be selected in attack. I don`t think you can drop the magician, our Robbie and Thompson is scoring for fun recently.
It is probably time to give Paterson a bit of a rest but have him available on the bench.
I would like to see and will predict the following therefore:
Jensen, Williams, Duff, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Alexander, Elliott, McCann, Eagles, Blake, Thompson
Subs: Penny, Jordan (if fit), Gudjonsson, McDonald, Paterson
Jordan looks to be close to returning after a knee ligament injury which has sidelined him for the past five games. With no further injuries announced so far we appear to have the luxury of virtually a full squad to choose from.
Our new loan from Middlesbrough has been showing his class recently and we will need him on form to keep the Wolves at bay.
Wolves` hot-shot striker and leading goal scorer Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was ill and had to withdraw from England under-21 duty in midweek. He is though expected to have recovered from the stomach bug in time for Saturday`s match.
His partner in crime, Chris Iwelumo has netted 13 times this season but goals recently seem to have dried up and Mick McCarthy might be tempted to play Sam Vokes up front instead.
Vokes has scored four goals in his last six games.
McCarthy admits Vokes is figuring high in his thoughts to partner Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
"He`s done great - really well and he`s definitely getting closer to his start," he said.
"He had about 70 minutes against Norwich on the Tuesday night. I`m very pleased with him."
Their defender Jason Shackell is now back on loan to Norwich for the rest of the season so we won`t see him.
Neill Collins is back in contention following his return from suspension but he will have to fight Christophe Berra for a place in the back four.
The leading goal scorer in the Championship has now netted 20 times.
Our back four will have their hands full with this lad assuming he plays.
We were humbled and taken to task at Molineux early in the season, losing 2-0 back in November and our record against Wolves at Turf Moor has been woeful in recent times losing the last three.
Akinbiyi got a goal for us against them last season but we still managed to lose 3-1.
Clive Oliver (Northumberland)
I think we can shade this one and come out 2-1 winners
The sequence of four consecutive Midlands` games comes to an end with Coventry the visitors to Turf Moor on Tuesday night (17th February 7:45pm KO)
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Date:Friday February 13 2009
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