Blues v Burnley preview

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December 20, 2012 by Made In Brum

I’ve got a good feeling about this game. After a fantastic comeback against Crystal Palace last week, we face a Burnley team in the bottom half of the Championship, only a few points above ourselves, they are without a win in four matches. I’m feeling pretty confident of a fourth home win of the season.

Burnley’s recent history

Wade Elliott will have happy memories of playing for Burnley, as it was his goal in the 2009 play-off final against Sheffield United that saw the Clarets reach England’s top division for the first time in 33 years. They weren’t to perish entirely in the Premiership, as they were beaten just once at home in the first half of the season, and could celebrate a memorable victory over Manchester United at Turf Moor in August and sat midtable on the turn of the year. However, Owen Coyle leaving for local rivals Bolton in January didn’t help them, and Brian Law’s failed in his attempts to emulate Coyle’s successes and keep Burnley up. Just 3 wins in the second half of the season saw them slump to relegation alongside Portsmouth and Hull.

The rebuilding process for Burnley doesn’t seem to have come into fruition since. After a mediocre start to the 2010-11 campaign, Brian Laws was sacked as manager in December 2010 and replaced by the young Eddie Howe. Howe failed to make an instant impact in terms of recharging Burnley’s promotion push; however, his signing on a free of Charlie Austin is still proving to be marvellous piece of business, having already scored 35 goals from 66 games for the club.

In terms of finding a play-off spot, the following season was equally unproductive as Burnley slumped to 13th. This season however, saw another managerial change as Eddie Howe left the club in late October to take charge of his hometown team, Bournemouth. His replacement, Sean Dyche has had a mixed start to life with his new club after leaving Watford, with three wins, three draws and three defeats.

Burnley’s current form

The clarets are now without a win in four games under Dyche, though that doesn’t tell the full story, as three of those games have ended in draws. The former Watford defender’s impact seems to have been to make Burnley more brittle at the back, but less of a goalscoring threat.

In Eddie Howe’s first 13 matches this season before leaving for Bournemouth, the team scored 26 goals, which averages exactly 2 per game. In addition to this, he got the best out of Charlie Austin, who netted 15 league goals in that time, more than 1 a game. However, the team also had a tendency to give cheap goals away, conceding 29- an average of 2.2 goals per match.

Dyche has entirely reversed this. In his opening 9 games in charge, Burnley have scored just 7 goals (0.8 per game) but they’ve only conceded 8 (0.9 per game). Charlie Austin’s form under Dyche hasn’t capitulated with a respectable 4 goals, almost a goal in 2 games, but he hasn’t been able to hold onto the magnificent form he showed under Eddie Howe at all. No prizes for guessing where Dyche’s priorities lie. Perhaps a factor behind this change in mentality has been the change in formation Dyche has brought in. For all his away matches so far, he’s played a 4-5-1 formation with Austin up front on his own, but with attacking wingers and a narrow central midfield. Most of their results under Dyche have come by them grinding teams down and hitting them on the counter-attack.

In short, the inconsistent form Burnley showed with Eddie Howe as manager hasn’t really changed since Dyche’s arrival, but the way in which they’ve dropped their points has. Under Howe, they were a freescoring team with defensive frailties, whereas under Dyche they’ve become more of a tough nut to crack, but look less competent going forward.

The dangerman

I’ll be honest… I feel slightly hesitant about predicting who Burnley’s dangerman is, because I talked about Glenn Murray for Crystal Palace last week and he scored twice! You’ll have to forgive me if Charlie Austin gets a brace this weekend, but he is without doubt Burnley’s key player and their top scorer by some distance. Three years ago, Austin was in fact playing non-league football for Poole Town in the Wessex League Premier Division, before getting a trial at Swindon and he’s never looked back since.

Charlie-Austin-Burnley-1024_2839266

He had been an incredibly consistent goalscorer for the Robins, scoring 37 goals in 65 games, though his second season was injury-plagued and Swindon finished bottom of League one. Burnley took advantage and snapped up the prolific striker on a free transfer, and he’s currently having probably his best season of his career to date, with 19 goals from 21 games. If you were to bet on a Burnley goalscorer, Charlie Austin would be the one to go for, but here’s hoping we can keep him at bay.

Blues team news

Hayden Mullins is back in the squad after a suspension, but should have no guarantee of a place in the starting line-up, as his replacements, Papa Bouba Diop and Callum Reilly both impressed last week- Diop got himself on the scoresheet and has now extended his stay at Blues for another month.

Blues will be without Jonathan Spector and Darren Ambrose, Paul Caddis picked up an injury in the game against Palace, but Nikola Zigic and Pablo Ibanez look to have returned to full fitness.

My prediction

Because of Burnley having tightened up with Dyche in charge, I don’t think we’ll win this game at a canter, but we’re capable of edging it. Nikola Zigic made a massive difference to the team when he came on as a sub last week, so I’d fancy him for goal as well as Marlon King, and Austin for Burnley. 2-1

Previous meetings

In the 2006-07 season, Blues played Burnley twice resulting in away wins in both games. In November 2006, Blues had won 5 of their last 6, but had suffered a setback last week when Jody Craddock scored a late equalizer for Wolves. Despite making a strong start to the season, Burnley had lost their last two matches including a 3-0 defeat at West Brom the week before. Baggies, thanks for softening them up for us. Some poor defending from Blues allowed Chris McCann to tap home just 5 minutes in to open the scoring for Burnley. However, they weren’t to hold that lead for long as Arsenal loanee Nicklas Bendtner, incidentally now on loan at Italian giants Juventus, unexpectedly scored when an attempted clearance bounced off another Burnley defender and into the Dane’s path. Bendtner was to play a decent part in that promotion season, scoring 11 goals from 34 league games. But Blues weren’t done yet, Steve Bruce clearly felt the initiative in the second half and gambled by bringing on DJ Campbell late on, and the gamble paid off. Campbell scored with just his first touch of the game, scrambling the ball home as Clarets keeper Brian Jensen failed to collect Bendtner’s cross. The goal ensured that Blues would stay in the automatic promotion places, and that Burnley’s bright start to the season would soon dissipate.

However, the two teams met again in April and Burnley at least got some revenge for that late defeat. On what was the day after my birthday, Burnley travelled to St. Andrews for the start of the Championship easter program. Since that meeting back in November, Burnley had in fact only won twice and were well inside the bottom half of the division, but the timing of the match didn’t suit Blues perfectly, as Burnley were on the back of a 4-0 win against Plymouth the week before. Blues had been rather inconsistent in recent weeks, having lost at Norwich, but seemed to be steadily improving as they salvaged a point with 10 men at West Brom and comfortably beat Coventry.

The first half of that game proved to be a rather dour one, but Blues needed the win and so attacked Burnley in the second half, Bruce taking off the defensive-minded Tunisian Medhi Nafti and putting on DJ Campbell, in hope that he’d come on to score the winner like he did at Turf Moor earlier in the season. However, the gamble wasn’t to pay off on this occasion. As Blues pushed further and further forward, Burnley hit us on the counterattack and John Spicer provided a thumping finish late on to give Burnley all three points.

Burnley went on to finish a season of mediocrity in 15th, but it seemed to be the complete opposite for Blues. We lost the Monday afterwards at Barnsley, but managed to bounce back from an awful Easter period with 4 straight wins, ensuring a speedy return to the Premier League.

By Gabriel Sutton
@_thescore 

STATS COMPILED BY @bcfcarchive

Head to Head

Blues host Burnley having previously recorded 24 wins, 7 draws and 14 defeats in the 117 year history of this fixture.

Blues have a 53.33% win record when at home against the Clarets.

Burnley hold the overall head to head advantage winning 24 of the previous 91 encounters between the two sides. There have been 31 wins for Blues and 18 draws.

Goals

Blues have scored 74 goals, conceding 55 when Burnley are in town.

On average, there have been 1.64 scored and 1.22 goals conceded by Blues when at home.

Scores

There has only been two 0-0 draw between the sides with Blues as hosts. The greatest margin of victory for Blues had been 5-1 on Saturday 8th September 1962.

Burnley recorded 1-7 victory on 10th April 1926, which remains the biggest win in this fixture. There have been six 1-0, five 2-0, two 3-0 and three 4-0 wins throughout the years in this match.

On this day

Blues have an overall record of 5 wins, 2 draws and 7 defeats on the 22nd December previously. There have been 16 goals scored and 23 conceded.

The biggest of the five previous wins on the 22nd came at home to Leeds United in 1928. Blues found the net five times against the side lying fourth in the first division at the time. Leeds responded once in the pre-Christmas clash.

The last Blues side at home on this day beat Walsall 1-0 in the first win of Steve Bruce’s reign as manager. Darren Purse converted a penalty for Blues, in what proved to be the first of 100 wins for Bruce as manager of Blues.

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