Date:Friday April 10 2009
Saturday 11th April 2009
The Clarets have a crucial home game against QPR this Saturday at Turf Moor. Nothing less than three points will do if Clarets fans nerves are to be steadied as we try to finish in the play-offs positions with just a handful of games remaining.
A couple of our rivals for a play-offs spot, Cardiff and Sheffield United won their games in midweek but to be honest it has not really affected our chances overall. We dropped one place to sixth on 66 points but crucially remain four points clear over the 7th place club, local rivals Preston. There is absolutely no margin for error though and we simply have to win at home against QPR this Saturday to steady the nerves.
There will be four games left to play after Saturday as follows, all of them tricky features
Cardiff City (A) - The Bluebirds buoyed by a thumping 4-1 midweek victory over Derby are now 5th with a game in hand over the Clarets. They will still think they have a chance of automatic promotion and if we get anything from this match it will be a great bonus.
Sheffield United (H) - A team in top form, currently third on 72 points. They too will have one eye on automatic promotion being only three points behind second place, Birmingham. It is again crucial we get some points from this game.
Southampton (A) - The Saints currently second from bottom are in a relegation battle and will be fighting for survival. We have to hold our nerve and come away with three points.
Bristol City (H) - Hopefully by then we will have already been assured of a play-offs spot. It will not be comfortable if we need to win this game to secure a play-off place. City, currently 9th on 59 points look to have blown it, so hopefully they will have nothing to play for other than pride in our last fixture of 2008/9 ( apart from we hope the play-off games)
QPR are another side who have been inconsistent this season and although it is still mathematically possible for them to finish in the play-offs, they will probably feel they have blown it. In 10th place they are now 9 points already behind the Clarets and the Rs fans will be coming to Turf Moor with low expectations based on some of the comments we have received from them on Vital Burnley.
Sensationally also today (Friday 10th) it has been announced that Queens Park Rangers have sacked Portuguese manager Paulo Sousa after just 26 games in charge, claiming he divulged sensitive information. Sousa, 38, took charge in November, but won only seven games. Player coach Garth Ainsworth will take now charge of the side for the rest of the season.
This could be the game that seals our fate, if Blackpool can take points from Preston at Deepdale in their local derby this Saturday and the Clarets win we could be five-seven points clear with the clubs below us having a mountain to climb to overtake us with games running out. The Clarets will also have the advantage before the match of knowing the result of the derby game with that game having an early kick-off of 1pm.
Owen Coyle will be hoping that Graham Alexander is fit enough to be available for selection. Alexander had his 100% start & finish record for the Clarets spoilt against Derby at Pride Park last Saturday after he was substituted suffering from a calf strain with nine minutes of the game remaining. One player that definitely won`t feature though is Steven Thompson. The striker has been out of contention since he damaged his ankle ligament in the match against Nottingham Forest at Turf Moor a month ago. Coyle however has confirmed he will not be fit to face QPR and must be considered a doubt for Monday's trip to former club Cardiff.
I suspect therefore Owen Coyle will select the same side for the fourth game running assuming Alexander pulls through in time
So the sixteen is likely to be as follows:
Jensen, Williams, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Alexander, Eagles, McCann, Elliott, Blake, Paterson
Subs: Penny, Duff, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Rodriguez
Thompson has not recovered sufficiently from his ankle ligament injury and looks set to have a quiet Easter! Alexander will hopefully have recovered from the calf strain he picked up in the last match away to the Rams.
Pato really does have to start scoring again. Our leading goal scorer with a total of 17 goals in all competitions has not put the ball in the back of the net since we played Birmingham away back in February, a total of 10 games!
A goal against QPR could be just the tonic he needs as we enter this crucial stage of the season
Caretaker coach Gareth Ainsworth might be tempted to name striker Rowan Vine in the starting eleven. The 26-year-old, who has been out of action since April 2008 came on from the bench after 73 minutes in the Rs last game against Palace.
Another striker, Heidar Helguson though looks likely to be sidelined with a hamstring problem and Jordi Lopez is still carrying a knock.
The Moroccan striker is currently on loan from Tottenham Hotspur and the 19 year old is highly rated by both Harry Redknapp and Spurs fans. He joined QPR on a season long loan in March this year and scored his first goal for the club in the recent 2-1 win over Bristol City. Clarets fans will also remember he came on from the bench in extra time to play for Spurs against the Clarets in the Carling Cup Semi-Final second leg at Turf Moor.
We have already played QPR three times this season. We beat them 2-1 at Loftus Road in the League back in November last year with Mahon and Blake getting the goals and then in January we clashed in the FA Cup beating them 2-1 in the 3rd round replay at Turf Moor following a dire 0-0 in the game at Loftus Road. This time Blake and McCann were the goal-scorers.
Last season though in this fixture we lost 2-0 at Turf Moor in December 2007, the first defeat suffered by Coyle since arriving in November of that year.
Mark Haywood (West Yorkshire)
No messing about Clarets! 3-1 to the Burnley !
A very tricky away visit to the hostile, unwelcoming place that is Ninian Park to play high-flying and play-off rivals Cardiff on Easter Monday(3pm KO)
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Date:Friday April 10 2009
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