Date:Saturday April 5 2014
Watford host ex Hornets boss Sean Dyche at Vicarage Road for just the second time since his spell as manager ended at the hands of then new owners the Pozzo family.
Dyche's Clarets are without several key players, including top scorers Danny Ings and Sam Vokes. With such a small squad this could mean places on the bench for several youngsters.
Burnley lost at home to table-toppers Leicester City last weekend, after an extremely impressive 16 game unbeaten run. With a gap of nine points to third-placed QPR, there is perhaps room for a dip in form before the end of the season, but the Clarets will not want that gap to close significantly, especially before some of their most influential players return from injury.
The Hornets have no fresh injury worries, and will be looking to build on an impressive 4-1 win away at Sheffield Wednesday last weekend.
Watford haven't lost at home since January, and though I seem to be saying it every week they will surely need to win this game to keep any sort of playoff dream alive.
Watford's Head Coach Beppe Sannino on Burnley's league position:
"I am not surprised by the job [Dyche] has done because he is a good quality manager.
'The surprise has been the minutes his players have played. There are eight or nine [outfield] players who always play, which is not easy to do.
"Burnley have shown everybody that it doesn`t matter if you have a large squad because with 13 or 14 players Dyche has picked up 79 points.'
Sannino on Burnley's injuries:
"When you miss players, you always have players who come in who are not tired and are fresh. So it [Ings and Vokes` injuries] won`t make too much of a difference.
"Burnley are a compact and aggressive team where there is not just one player who is very good. Burnley`s players are at the same level and they are a team. This is the main strength of Burnley."
Burnley boss Sean Dyche on his time at Watford:
'I have fond memories. I had a good time there.
'I was player, captain, youth coach, reserve team/development coach, assistant manager and manager so of course I had a real connection with the club.
'I always compartmentalise my career into different stages. I enjoyed my time, move forward - it`s just the way I am.'
Sannino on the possibility of a last-minute playoff push:
'I think we need to carry on trying to win as many matches as possible until towards the end of the season. Then we will open our eyes to see if we are still dreaming of something or if we should be building towards next season.
'I am very practical. I don`t like to give a false expectation to people. I like to allow people to dream; to dream together. To have a surprise, we have to work.
'I am focused on the next game. I am not focused on this vision.'
Dyche on the Clarets' injury situation:
'We are probably stretched to our limit at the moment.
'Everyone was suggesting it would happen, some outside our camp were almost thirsty for it to happen, but we believe in the group and the mentality of the group, so we will go again.
'It`s up to others to decide how they perceive things, but perception and facts are two completely different things and my job is to look at the facts.'
'We have got this situation where we are stretched, but we believe in what we are doing and we think the situation could change very, very quickly because we have a couple of players right on the cusp of coming back in.'
Lloyd Doyley will sit out this match after twisting his ankle in the 4-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday.
Marco Cassetti and Jonathan Bond both missed the last game but are both now fit following their respective injuries.
Algerian defender Essaid Belkalem is also back in contention following a short spell on the sidelines due to a back spasm.
The Hornets' striker shortage continues, with only two recognised strikers available in Troy Deeney and Mathias Ranegie.
Chu-Young Park is still two or three weeks away after recovering from his thigh injury but picking up a toe injury, and it has been confirmed that Fernando Forestieri has suffered a small fracture on his toe so it's likely he will be out for at least another week.
Almen Abdi came on for the final part of the Sheffield Wednesday game following his complex foot injury that has seen him back for small portions of games in January only since his last start way back in August of last year. His rehabilitation continues and Abdi is expected to be in the squad following 45 minutes against Northampton in a training ground friendly during the week.
Defender Fitz Hall will also be available to play following his Achilles injury, having also played in the Northampton friendly during the week.
Nominated for Championship Player of the Month for March, Troy Deeney has scored six goals in as many games and will be the Hornets' main scoring threat against Burnley.
Likely to play off fellow striker Mathias Ranegie, Deeney's composure in front of goal will be a main factor in the result.
Burnley's small squad has never been exposed to this extent throughout this season. Key players are out, with little in the way of recognised replacements to fill their positions.
Sam Vokes is out for the rest of the season after picking up a cruciate ligament injury last Saturday. Vokes requires surgery to repair the ligament, and the length of his rehabilitation means that the striker will not play football again until next season is underway.
Vokes' strike partner Danny Ings has missed four games since suffering ankle ligament damage at Birmingham last month and will continue to be unavailable against Watford.
Creative right back Kieran Trippier has also been sidelined recently, missing three games with a tight hamstring. Though Trippier is close to a return, it is not believed he will feature against the Hornets.
Dean Marney will not play, as he serves the second game of his two match ban for ten yellow cards.
Winger Junior Stanislas is also a doubt, suffering from a tight hamstring.
According to Vital Burnley, Burnley's key player is defender and captain Jason Shackell:
'This will be a tough test for the skipper with so many players sidelined. He will also have a crucial role to play in the back-four with Watford probably having a lot of the possession in our half. Somehow he has to motivate the players to be creative with just one striker up front and our midfield also somewhat decimated.'
Stuart Attwell returns to Vicarage Road for the the first time since 2008, when he awarded Reading a goal despite the ball crossing the touchline two yards wide of the Watford goal.
The less said about this the better, perhaps.
With Burnley's squad looking threadbare and with Watford's good form of late, a home win is the most likely result despite the sides' respective league positions.
The Clarets are likely to line up in a 4-5-1 formation, which in theory restricts their goal threat but will test our wing backs, as going forward Burnley will use the width of the pitch and the overlap may be a problem.
Having said that, I believe Watford will have too much for Burnley and predict a 2-0 win for the Hornets.
Millwall (A) Saturday 12 April, 15:00.
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Date:Saturday April 5 2014
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