Brian Laws will wait as late as possible to make a decision about the fitness of Steven Fletcher, who missed the weekend defeat at Arsenal with a broken hand sustained on international duty with Scotland.

Fletcher’s return would be a huge boost to Burnley ahead of a crucial double-header at Turf Moor.

Tonight’s visitors are Stoke City, who are without Salif Diao, with James Beattie, Danny Higginbotham, Matty Etherington and Glenn Whelan all doubts.

Burnley will certainly be without Chris McCann, who may well not play again this season although he has returned to training. Captain Steven Caldwell continues to miss out so Leon Cort is expected to keep his place against his former club.

David Nugent’s goal at Arsenal should secure his place in the eleven, so if Fletcher is able to play Martin Paterson may drop to the bench.

Brian Laws has spent the week playing down the game, denying it is a “must-win” encounter for his side. But he will find few who will agree with him. Burnley are running out of matches and will find themselves cut adrift unless they pick up a win soon.

Stoke’s combative style and reliance on set pieces has won them few fans this season, but the Potters look set to be safe again this campaign.

Their football may not be pretty but it is effective and Laws’ team will need to come up with a way to defend against the giant throw-in of Rory Delap as well as marking tightly from corners and free-kicks.

The Clarets haven’t kept a clean sheet since October so Burnley’s strikers will know they will probably have to score at least twice to secure the points.

And no longer can Burnley rely on their home form to keep them out of trouble. Despite winning five of their first six at Turf Moor, they have only triumphed in one from their last seven home games.

Night matches do not come around often in the Premier League so it should be a good atmosphere at Turf Moor, in contrast to the tense feel at the 2-1 defeat to Portsmouth a week and a half ago.

Whether the players can muster a performance good enough to get the club out of the relegation zone is another matter.

Tony Pulis has made his side hard to beat and despite going out of the FA Cup to Chelsea at the weekend you can be assured his men will be up for the challenge.

The Clarets may well have to wait until the weekend visit of Wolves to Turf Moor to pick up a much-needed win.

Prediction: Burnley 1-1 Stoke City.

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