Rovers reporter PAUL WHEELOCK and his Clarets counterpart SUZANNE GELDARD take a look at where Sunday’s East Lancashire derby could be won and lost...
The partnership of Ings & Vokes
SG: With 42 goals between them they go into this game with tremendous ammunition and a telepathic connection that most Championship defences have struggled to deal with.
It is not even a concern that Ings goes into the fixture on his longest run of games without a goal – albeit just four – because there are goals in other areas, as proved last weekend against Derby.
But it will be crucial that both return from international duty unscathed.
PW: There is absolutely no question Rovers – no matter the make-up of their injury-ravaged defence – have to keep the Championship’s deadliest strike partnership quiet.
But what is equally important is stopping their supply line – and this is where Craig Conway comes in. The winger – one of the few Rovers players to emerge with any credit against Bolton last weekend – will have to spend time tracking back if he is going to keep Kieran Trippier in check. As proved in September’s reverse clash at Turf Moor, the Clarets right-back is his side’s most creative force.
David Dunn’s influence
SG: It cannot be underestimated. Widely regarded as ‘Mr Blackburn’ if there is one fixture he would run through brick walls and over broken glass to be involved in – and have an impact – it is this one. But after what happened last season, Burnley are aware now more than ever of what to expect from Rovers’ homegrown midfielder.
PW: Even if Dunn is half-fit I would still name him on the bench. His mere presence among the Rovers substitutes would be enough to spook a Clarets support still shaken by his injury-time heroics in last season’s corresponding derby.
No-one gets this match more than Dunn and if Sunday’s clash is close with 20 minutes to play who better to bring on than him?
The tactical battle of the managers
SG: A cat and mouse affair is on the cards. While Sean Dyche primes his players with the intention of going out to win every game, this is a ‘must not lose’ and after last weekend’s humiliation at Bolton I’d expect Gary Bowyer to feel the same.
I don’t anticipate either side giving too much away.
Having said that, the Clarets could shock everyone and set off with the high tempo they did against Nottingham Forest and take the game by the scruff of the neck. They are certainly capable of it.
PW: Burnley manager Sean Dyche has proved second to none when it comes to setting up a team this season and it will be a big challenge for Gary Bowyer to get one over his counterpart from across the East Lancashire divide.
But Rovers boss Bowyer has won the tactical battle in big games, against more experienced managers, before this season – think back to Reading and Leeds United away in the league and at home to Manchester City in the FA Cup for proof of that.
Winning the midfield battle
SG: Burnley have benefited from consistency in selection all over the pitch this season – Saturday was their seventh game unchanged. But the partnership and understanding between Dean Marney and David Jones in the middle has made them a vital cog in the wheel.
And of course Jones has recent inside knowledge of the home dressing room at Ewood Park, which could play into the Clarets’ hands.
In contrast, Rovers have not been able to name a settled side this season, let alone in midfield.
PW: Should Gary Bowyer have signed David Jones instead of allowing him to join Burnley?
On the evidence of the way Jones has performed so consistently alongside Dean Marney in the Clarets engine room this season, you would have to say yes.
However the answer may have been different had injury not robbed Bowyer of Corry Evans for most of the season.
The good news is Evans is back and there must surely be a temptation to throw him straight in.
Burnley overcoming their ‘mental block’
SG: Dyche’s side go into Sunday’s showdown in their best shape compared to recent derbies, and the bigger picture of a Premier League prize could actually serve to take the pressure off this particular feature. The players have been involved in a few of these fixtures now and have more of a grasp of what it means to the supporters, the build-up, atmosphere and animosity surrounding it.
And if they needed a psychological advantage, the 20-point gap between the two teams going into the game should do it.
PW: Having gone so long without beating the old enemy it has become ingrained into the psyche of Clarets supporters that no matter how well their team play on the day, by hook or by crook Rovers will find some way to deny them.
Just look at the last two derbies with David Dunn’s injury-time, suspiciously offside strike and the most fortuitous goal of Jordan Rhodes’ career.
The big question is whether Burnley boss Sean Dyche can stop the winless run from weighing heavily around the shoulders of his players too.
Grant Hanley returning for Rovers
SG: His leadership and organisational skills were missed last weekend, although by all accounts his presence in a similar all-round performance would not have made a jot of difference at the Reebok against Bolton.
The Scot seems easily wound-up, so the Clarets could play on that weakness in the inevitable event that emotions run high although having a recognised centre half in the back line will be a boost to Rovers.
PW: Make no mistake Rovers need their captain back for Sunday.
Having come up through the club’s ranks he knows exactly what this match means and should Matt Kilgallon miss out, he will have to use his leadership skills to marshal the back four.