Burnley v Portsmouth, Premier League, February 27, 2010
What would have been billed as aÂ massive six-pointer between the bottom and second-bottom team in the Premier League in usual circumstances, may not be an accurate cliche to slap on the meeting of Burnley and Pompey this Saturday, as by the time kick-off comes around the south coasters could have virtually written off their own survival hopes by falling into administration.
If reports are to believed, and the unlikely event of a miracle white knight fails to materialise, Portsmouth will enter into administration on Friday and they’ll be slapped with a nine-point penalty. In doing, Portsmouth’s already pitiful 16 points from 26 matches will shrink to just seven points, leaving them a whopping 16 points behind their opponents this weekend, Burnley. With just 12 matches in the league remaining, Portsmouth will need to win virtually every game left this season to be in with any chance of retaining their top flight status, and that simply will not happen.
How Portsmouth’s impending administration will play out on the field, though, remains a question worth mulling over. On the one hand, it would be understandable if heads dropped on the south coast and players were seen to throw their metaphorical towels in, taking into account the serious financial plight of Portsmouth. But, looking at matters from another perspective, the Pompey squad will also know that if any of them want the opportunity to jump ship this summer and move to another top flight club, they’ll need to make sure to prove themselves in the final months of the season.
Against Burnley, Portsmouth can draw on some encouragement that they can spring a surprise result, with the south coasters unbeaten in the last 10 meetings in all competitions with the Clarets. That said, Portsmouth have won just one of their last 26 Premier League away games, while they have failed to score in the last four road trips.
Frederic Piquionne, who damaged a hamstring in last week’s home defeat to Stoke, is not expected to feature, meaning that either John Utaka or Kanu could be drafted into the Pompey attack at Turf Moor along Aruna Dindane. Elsewhere, defenders Marc Wilson, Anthony Vanden Borre and Tal Ben-Haim are also injury doubts, leaving Ricardo Rocha on standby to play at the back with the club’s only other recognised defender, Hermann Hreidarsson. (Portsmouth are 3/1 to keep a clean sheet, 2/7 against.)
With David James then marshalling a patched-up rearguard, Portsmouth’s best line of defence could well be to attack. Fortunately in that regard they have a couple of players who look up to the job, as Spurs loanee Jamie O’Hara has produced some fabulous form in recent weeks, particularly during the club’s 4-1 hammering at Southampton, while the combination of Nadir Belhadj and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie down the left wing having more than enough quality to cause Burnley some serious headaches.
Contrasting the degree of freedom which Pompey’s players may feel after their relegation is cemented by administration, Burnley face the arguably more daunting problem of having to battle for survival with their future still in their own hands.
The Clarets have fallen into an awful cycle of losing their winning touch, having picked up just oneÂ victory in their last 15 Premier League matches. Yet, Burnley are formidable opponents at home and with only two defeats on home soil this season and, having taken points off of Manchester United and Arsenal, the Clarets will fancy their chances against bottom side Pompey. (Burnley are 9/5 to keep a clean sheet, 1/2 against.)
Loanee David Nugent will be ineligible for Brian Laws’ men due to his contractual obligations against his parent club, opening a place in the attack for either fans’ favourite Robbie Blake or returning striker Martin Paterson. Additional good news for Burnley could see Graham Alexander return to action after the club captain missed the last four games with a calf strain.
Looking around the rest of the Burnley squad, former Clarets boss Owen Coyle broke the clubâ€™s transfer record after paying Â£3m for striker Steven Fletcher from Hibernian in the summer and so far he has proven a very good acquisition. With 11 goals in 29 appearances so far for the Clarets, Fletcher will fancy his chances against Pompey.
101gg predicts: Burnley 2 – Portsmouth 2 (18/1)
Full match odds here.