Date:Friday December 2 2011
Saturday 3rd December 2011
Burnley are hoping for their third successive league win on Saturday but face a tricky away game against high-flying West Ham.
The Clarets seem to have turned a corner after two impressive successive league wins but they now face a much sterner test with 2nd place West Ham the hosts on Saturday. Burnley came from 2-0 down to beat Hull City 3-2 at the KC Stadium last Saturday and then followed that up with a convincing 4-0 hammering of Ipswich Town at Turf Moor on Tuesday night.
Our fortunes seem to have changed, but we have been here before and now we have to continue our good run of form and play with some consistency. If we can come away from the Boleyn Ground with a point it will be some achievement; three points and Clarets fans really will begin to believe we can still turn our season round and challenge for a play-offs spot. Remarkably after being fourth from bottom and within two points of the drop zone before the Hull game last Saturday, we are now 14th on 24 points just five points off the play-offs positions.
We simply can`t underestimate our chances though against the Hammers. Sam Allardyce has turned their fortunes round following the East London club`s relegation from the Premier League last season and they now sit in a comfortable second place in the Championship with 40 points from 19 games so far. They are just two points behind league leaders, Southampton and a comfortable six points clear of third-placed club, Cardiff City.
Clarets fans might not want to read the fact that West Ham are top of the Championship's 'form' table and it will be even less comfortable reading for them to realise that the Hammers have also the 'meanest` defence in the league with only 15 goals shipped in 19 games. Burnley were crowing about their second clean sheet of the season against Ipswich on Tuesday night but to put that into context West Ham have kept nine! They are also looking for their fifth successive win which if achieved will be their longest winning league sequence since February 2006.
Our record against West Ham at the Boleyn Ground is also scary. We have conceded five goals in each of our last two games in East London. Burnley went down 5-3 in our Premier League clash two seasons ago and then lost 5-1 in the FA Cup game last February. The Clarets have only won just one game away to West Ham in 21 visits and that was back in October 1973 in the old Division 1 when we beat them 1-0.
So then everything would appear to be stacked against us, so it is just the time to take everybody by surprise and produce a shock by taking at least a point off them. If Bristol City can do it, so can we! Considering how poorly Ipswich played the other night too against the Clarets, it is interesting to note they are also one of only two clubs (along with Cardiff) to have come away from the Boleyn ground with all three points this season. Just shows how tight the Championship can be with any team being able to beat any other on the day. Come on you Clarets!
32 year old striker, John Carew should return after missing the Hammers midweek win at Middlesbrough with a knee injury.
However striker, Sam Baldock faces three weeks out with a hamstring problem after picking up the injury in their recent game at home to Derby last weekend.
Carlton Cole is West Ham`s leading goal-scorer with seven goals so far this season. The 28 year old, England international joined West Ham United in July 2006 from Chelsea for an undisclosed fee, signing a four-year contract.
Some reports suggest Marvin Bartley could face a late fitness test for the Clarets after he was substituted against Ipswich on Tuesday, suffering from a tight calf. However, the official site sounds far more upbeat suggesting he is likely to have shaken off the injury before the Hammers clash.
One player who will return is Ross Wallace. He missed the Ipswich game due to a one-match suspension after picking up five yellows in the previous game against Hull in the KC Stadium.
There has also been lots of good news this week regarding our injured strikers. Martin Paterson played 45 minutes of a behind-closed-doors game at Wigan in midweek and now looks set for a possible Championship comeback at home to Portsmouth on December 10. Howe is trying to set up another friendly game in the next few days to prepare Pato further before his potential comeback in the first team. Paterson has been sidelined since the first game of the season against Watford at Turf Moor after suffering a recurrence of his thigh problem.
Meanwhile Danny Ings who has yet to make his debut for the Clarets saw a specialist on Wednesday and also received some good news. His recovery from the cartilage injury is going well and the club can now step up his schedule with a view to getting him fit for first team action in the early New Year.
That leaves our final injured striker and leading goal-scorer, Charlie Austin with his dislocated shoulder. Austin is already back in training. He too has set a target to be available for the Pompey game at home a week on Saturday so everything is looking good for his return much earlier than first feared.
Brian Jensen too is back in training following his groin injury in the game away to Posh back in September. He will however still be sidelined for the Hammers game.
Junior Stanislas after a number of games you would describe as average to poor, hit form on Tuesday night against Ipswich and looked far brighter and in the thick of things against the Blues! He will be keen to consolidate that performance and what a time it would be to get his first goal for the Clarets against his own club. Stanislas I am sure would love to give Sam Allardyce a few regrets about letting him go
With Wallace available again after a one-match ban and assuming Bartley is fit enough to play, Eddie Howe may have a selection headache in the midfield and on the flanks. On the assumption you don`t change a winning team unless forced, Wallace may struggle to get back into the starting eleven, especially with an improved Stanislas and Treacy looking likely to keep their place after both putting in a good shift against Ipswich on Tuesday night.
Howe may however decide to experiment again with a holding midfielder and playing someone in the hole behind a loan striker. Bartley was tried in the former and Wallace in the latter in the previous away game against Hull City so it not beyond the realms of possibility that we could have three recognised wingers again in the team with one playing in the hole.
However that would mean one of the strikers, most likely Sam Vokes would have to be dropped to the bench and to be honest Howe tried numerous fanciful midfield formations in the first half against Hull without much success and we only came back from the dead after reverting back to 4-4-2.
Junior Stanislas is also likely to be up for this game against his former club, and I can`t see Howe dropping him back to the bench.
My preference therefore would be to keep with the winning formula, name the same starting eleven and play 4-4-2. Keep Wallace in reserve on the bench. Dean Marney could be the player to lose out unless Bartley is not fit enough to play in which case he is likely to deputise in midfield.
Another question for Howe could be regarding Andre Amougou. Amougou even failed to make the bench against Ipswich in midweek so can we expect to see him return to the sixteen? I hope so but I am not confident he will.
Despite the uncertainties, I suspect the sixteen will look something like this:
Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee, Stanislas, McCann, Bartley (if fit), Treacy, Rodriguez, Vokes
Subs: Stewart, Amougou, Easton, Wallace, Hines,
Essex referee, Fred Graham is in charge of this one; his first involving the Clarets. He has been dishing out cards at an average of three/game this season. In his 19 matches so far he has shown 3 red cards and 54 yellows.
It will certainly be a tall order to come away from Upton Park with any points but maybe there is a shock in store against all the odds? West Ham have lost at home this season and could only manage a point recently against relegation-threatened, Bristol City! You just never know. I am going to play safe though and go for a 2-2 draw. It would be a tall order to expect the Clarets to win their fifth league game of the season on the road against the Hammers but you never know and I just hope we can sneak a victory despite all the odds. Could the youngest manager in the Championship (Eddie Howe, 34) get the better of the oldest (Sam Allardyce, 57)? We can but hope!
Portsmouth at home on Saturday 10th December (Kick-Off 3pm) is our next game!
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Date:Friday December 2 2011
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