Burnley Enigma Variation-Pompey & Circumstance?
Saturday 10th December 2011
The Clarets will be looking to continue their winning ways after a run of three games without dropping a point. Next up will be Portsmouth at Turf Moor this Saturday.
What a difference a week makes! A week last Saturday with Burnley 2-0 down away to Hull and just fifteen minutes to play, things looked so grim. We looked to be heading into the bottom three and then the miracle happened. We came back from the dead to win the match 3-2, went on to thump Ipswich 4-0 at home on the Tuesday night before sensationally going to high-flying West Ham and beating the Hammers 2-1; only the second time the Clarets had won at the Boleyn Ground in 50 years!
So now we are basking in glory sitting pretty in 10th spot just five points away from the play-offs positions. Can we now maintain this new found consistency or will we be bitten in the bum again at home to struggling Portsmouth just when it looked like we were on the up? It has of course happened so many times before to us this season but this time our confidence must be sky high after beating the second placed club on their home soil only last Saturday. Surely, we won`t cock things up this time and will be able to keep the momentum going?
Portsmouth of course have troubles of their own both on and off the pitch. There is now yet another dark cloud descending over Fratton Park following news that their parent company, Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI), has now gone into administration. Vladimir Antonov, the owner of the parent resigned as Pompey chairman last week plunging the club into crisis with fears that they could be docked 10 points.
Pompey are already struggling in the Championship this season. They are currently in 18th spot just three points from the drop zone albeit with a game in hand over most the clubs around them. Losing another 10 points could spell disaster for the club and plunge them deep into a relegation battle. Portsmouth have also yet to win away this season and have picked up just three draws from nine games on their travels.
The club has also recently suffered the loss of their manager following former Clarets gaffer, Steve Cotterill's decision to up sticks and move to Nottingham Forest back in October. Their new manager is former, West Bromwich Albion assistant head coach Michael Appleton.
It all sounds like a tale of woe which of course means the Clarets will need to be on their extra guard and not become too cocky or complacent on Saturday. Clarets fans will recall what happened when we played Portsmouth at Turf Moor during our Premier League season under similar circumstances. We lost 2-1 against a side already relegated, having been docked points after administration and fighting only for pride. The defeat virtually ensured we too would also be relegated.
Burnley Team News:
Both Charlie Austin (dislocated shoulder) and Martin Paterson (thigh) could be available for selection on Saturday. Both strikers have targeted the Pompey game for a possible return.
Brian Jensen (groin) however could still be sidelined and Danny Ings (cartilage) will not be ready until the early New Year.
There is no news of any further injury concerns for the gaffer and everybody who played against West Ham on Saturday seems to have come through unscathed.
Player to watch: Chris McCann
Many fans have had concerns recently regarding Chris McCann but in his last two games he seems to have recovered his old form and has also started to get back on the score sheet. He scored a brace in the game against Ipswich at Turf Moor last Tuesday night before also equalising for the Clarets away to West Ham last Saturday.
It had been felt that the captaincy may have been weighing heavily on his shoulders but that could now also be behind him. Although he does not appear to be the most vocal captain we have had in recent years, our current run of form, especially the win against the high-flying Hammers suggests he must be doing something right.
Portsmouth Team News:
There is no news of any injuries following Pompey`s 2-1 home win over Coventry at the weekend. Michael Appleton could well name the same sixteen although leading goal scorer, Luke Varney will be hoping for a start after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Player to watch: Luke Varney
Varney is currently Pompey`s top goal scorer, with five goals so far this season. The 29 year old striker has just returned to the side after recovering from a sore hamstring having missed the recent Leicester game. Varney was named on the bench for the Coventry clash on Saturday and came on in the 68th minute helping Pompey secure a 2-1 win.
The former Derby county forward and winger spent a whole season out on loan to Blackpool in their unsuccessful Premier League campaign. It had been hoped, that he would then sign a permanent deal with the Seasiders in the summer but instead in July 2011, Varney joined Portsmouth for a fee of £750,000.
Team & Tactics:
Both Charlie Austin and Martin Paterson were targeting a return to first team action against Pompey this Saturday but even if both are fit, will Eddie Howe be prepared to change a winning team, especially one that has just beaten high-flying West Ham on their home soil? I guess it also depends on Howe`s starting formation and whether we line up 4-4-2 or play the more defensive five man midfield. It strikes me that Howe prefers to stick with 4-4-2 at home but would it be fair to drop either Rodriquez and/or Vokes to accommodate Pato and/or Austin? I suspect despite so many striker options at the moment that we will still play Jay Rod and Vokes upfront in 4-4-2. Austin and/or Pato might be on the bench with Hines possibly not making the sixteen.
Another dilemma for Howe could be which wingers to name in the starting eleven. Stanislas could draw the short straw here with Wallace and Treacy preferred on the flanks.
Assuming we do not play any fanciful five man midfield formations, one question could be will Marney start? He made his first Championship start since September at the Boleyn Ground last Saturday and generally had a very good game playing in a more defensive, midfield role. Marney though could lose out if we are playing a 4-4-2 formation with captain, Chris McCann and Marvin Bartley looking likely to retain their place in the centre of midfield.
I suspect the sixteen on Saturday could look something like this:
Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Duff, Mee, Treacy, McCann, Bartley, Wallace, Rodriguez, Vokes
Subs: Stewart, Easton, Marney, Stanislas, Hines and/or Austin and/or Pato (chose one from three)
The Clarets are on a roll and should be too strong for struggling Pompey. We know however how dangerous it can be to be over-confident considering our ups and downs this season and periods of inconsistency. We also know how the form book can be chucked out the window in the Championship so we do have to err on the cautious side when predicting the outcome of games involving the Clarets. Having said that though, I think this time we will keep our focus and continue our march up the table. I will go for a 3-1 Clarets victory.
Burnley travel to Brighton on Saturday 17th December. They will play the Seagulls for the first time on their new ground, the American Express Community Stadium (Kick-Off: 3pm)