Preview: Burnley v City

On a weekend in which the contenders for the final Champions League place all travel away from home, the short trip to neighbouring Burnley becomes the latest 'must win' game for the Blues. A happy hunting ground for us in the recent past, we can't afford any slip-ups as the season reaches its climax.

Pablo Zabaleta serves the first of a two-game suspension for earning his tenth booking of the campaign midweek. Micah Richards should take his place at full-back. Gareth Barry is also likely to return, most probably for Patrick Vieira whose performance last time out left a lot to be desired, though Mancini's appeal to the Frenchman this week coupled with Nige saling dangerously close to a suspension may mean he keeps his place.

Craig Bellamy ought to win his spot back, too, Shaun Wright-Phillips most likely to make way, though Mancini could well surprise. Joleon Lescott, Wayne Bridge, Stevie Ireland, Martin Petrov and Michael Johnson are all still missing.

Burnley's Chris McCann will miss around two months after surgery on a troubled knee. Richard Eckersley has an ankle injury, earned during a loan spell at Plymouth, and former Blue Stephen Jordan requires a late fitness test on a knock which saw him replaced by Daniel Fox in the derby defeat to Blackburn last weekend.

Even the most regular Burnley fan doesn't seem to have the slightest clue which side Laws will put out as he continues to struggle to make any positive impression at Turf Moor at all. Club captain Steve Caldwell returns from a groin injury but may have to make do with a place on the bench. Clark Carlisle's choice words for sections of his own support might make Laws' decision a bit easier, with Mike Duff, Andre Bikey and Leon Cort all pushing to replace the hapless brainbox.

The Clarets sole victory since they earned their only away point of the season at Eastlands in November saw them beat fellow relegation candidates West Ham. The short-lived days of Turf Moor looking like an intimidating place where the 'bigger' boys struggle appear well and truly over, and Pompey, Wolves and Blackburn all managing to take three points there over recent weeks should mean we fancy our chances.

Bottom three and heading for the drop or not, however, Burnley are reaching the stage of having to get points on the board. Our performances of late have been uninspiring if relatively fruitful. The 3-0 scoreline against another Lancashire rival, Wigan Athletic last week, flattered us greatly, and any repeat of that, where we were continuously flustered and struggled to retain possession could result in an unnecessarily uncomfortable evening.

Possible teams:
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Jordan, Cort, Duff, Alexander, McDonald, Elliott, Nugent, Fletcher, Paterson

City: Given, Richards, Garrido, Toure, Kompany, de Jong, A.Johnson, Barry, Tevez, Adebayor, Bellamy

Prediction: Burnley 1 City 2

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