Burnley return to Turf Moor looking to avoid defeat for a third successive game for the first time this season.

After a wobble with the defeats at Ewood Park and against Wigan, the Clarets got back to winning ways against Hull and then picked up a first point on the road at Manchester City two weeks ago before going into the international break.

Owen Coyle is expected to name the same starting eleven despite praising Kevin McDonald recently, the man who nicked the point at Eastlands with a late equaliser. Coyle may be tempted to move Andre Bikey back into the back four to cope with the threat of John Carew, but it is unlikely he will drop Clarke Carlisle or his captain Steven Caldwell to make way for McDonald to come in.

Graham Alexander has answered his critics with three goals in his last two games and the veteran midfielder is now the Clarets’ top scorer in the league this season. Fellow elder statesman of the team Robbie Blake continues to be under threat of losing his place with Fernando Guerrero inching closer to a first league start, but it would be a surprise to see Coyle change anything going into the game.

Burnley are still without long-term absentees Chris McCann, Martin Paterson and Jay Rodriguez but have no other injury concerns.

Villa’s major summer signing Stewart Downing is still waiting for his first appearance as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury, while Curtis Davies and Wilfried Bouma also miss out through injury.

Luke Young could return at full-back after turning down the chance to join Fabio Capello’s England squad, although Martin O’Neill may choose to continue with Carlos Cuellar at right-back. Habib Beye returns from suspension and is another option for O’Neill in that position.

Stephen Warnock made his first appearance in an international squad over the break and will keep his place at left-back following his summer move from Blackburn Rovers while Richard Dunne and James Collins – another two summer recruits – continue their partnership at the heart of the defence. Both Dunne and Collins will be threats from attacking set pieces for the visitors.

Emile Heskey is back for Villa but will settle for a place on the bench with John Carew expected to partner Gabby Agbonlahor up front. James Milner and Ashley Young will start on the flanks with Stilyan Petrov coming into the midfield alongside either Nigel Reco-Coker or Steve Sidwell in a team packed with young English talent.

Villa will line up with a conventional 4-4-2 formation with Milner and Young attacking high up the flanks. Burnley will have to defend deep to negate the pace of Agbonlahor, leaving Alexander and Bikey with the job of providing protection for the centre-backs.

Although Villa thrashed Bolton 5-1 last time out and are unbeaten at home since the opening day, they are without a win in their last four trips on the road. Martin O’Neill will have pinpointed this game as a chance to get some much-needed away points on the board while Coyle will be hopeful of adding Villa to his list of conquests this season that already includes Everton, Sunderland, Hull, Birmingham and Manchester United at Turf Moor.

The form book points to a home win but in reality it will be a much more difficult encounter for the Clarets against fifth-placed Villa. If the Burnley defence can hold firm against Villa’s pacy attack and defend solidly from set pieces the Clarets have a good chance of picking up at least a point. Goals have not been a problem for Burnley this season with ten goals in their last five league games.

For what it’s worth, Villa are without a win at Turf Moor in over seventy years. They have only failed to score once this season but also usually concede, with no clean sheets in their last seven games. So there should be goals.

Alexander will be looking to continue his fine goalscoring form while lead striker Steven Fletcher will also fancy his chances of notching. If Burnley play to their full capabilities they can pick up another draw in front of a near sell-out crowd at Turf Moor.

Prediction: Burnley 2-2 Aston Villa.

This article was written for FansOnline.

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