Coventry City face a Burton Albion side who sit pretty at the top of the league on Saturday. Following Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with fellow promotion rivals Walsall, the home supporters will be itching for a victory that would keep their team in touch with the automatic promotion spots.
In the prior meeting between The Brewers and The Sky Blues, it was the latter who travelled home from the Pirelli Stadium with all three points. This will give Tony Mowbray’s men confidence and they will be looking to pick up another win at the Ricoh Arena.
Coventry City have been drawing too many games of late, with the tie against Walsall being their 9th stalemate of the campaign. The result did, however, did ensure their unbeaten home record remained firmly intact. It is now 4 points in 2016 for The Sky Blues, and they’ll be hoping they can add to that tally when The Brewers visit.
In their last five league fixtures, Mowbray’s outfit have put together a sequence of 2 wins and 3 draws. Goals have also dried up a little for the home side, scoring only 3 in their last 3 fixtures on their own turf. They do, however, remain one of the league’s top scorers with 47 goals. That combined with a solid defensive record sees City lying in 4th position.
The Brewers are certainly surprise league leaders at this stage of the season, but they have carved out some formidable results to remain in 1st place. Just looking at the statistics shows you that they are a very difficult team to beat, and they’ve only shipped 19 goals in their opening 24 fixtures. This organisation has meant they haven’t had to score too many to win games, with 32 goals being tucked away.
In their last five League One fixtures, Nigel Clough’s newly inherited side have a near perfect record. They have managed to win 4 and draw 1 of those matches to propel themselves further ahead in poll position. As they’ve played fewer games than most in the division, they’ll be determined to win this game and pull further away from the chasing pack.
The Sky Blues are sweating on the availability of Chris Stokes as the defender left wearing a protective boot on Tuesday night. If he does miss out, that will leave Mowbray without him, Aaron Martin, Jordan Willis and Reda Johnson. Peter Ramage could well make his debut in the heart of defence after signing for the club last week.
City have no other fresh injury concerns, only existing absentees in the midfield pair of Ivor Lawton and Conor Thomas. It would be of no surprise to see the home side stick with a relatively unchanged starting eleven, although the manager has hinted that James Maddison will start the game.
Burton Albion will be without defender Tom Flanagan as he faces up to three weeks on the recovery table following an appendix operation. Darius Charles will also be unavailable as his initial recovery from a leg injury was short lived and the problem occurred again to force him out of action.
No other players are missing through injury for The Brewers, but Robbie Weir is suspended after picking up two yellow cards at Blackpool. He is set to be replaced by Calum Butcher and he will be hoping to fill the void adequately.
Three To Watch:
Abdenasser El Khayati
The Dutchman’s footballing career started in his native country as he rose through the ranks at PSV. However, when it was evident that he wasn’t going to force his way into the first team, he elected to move to Cyprus and join up with FC Den Bosch. He found life tough there too, making only a handful of appearances over the course of two seasons.
Brief spells at NAC Breda and Olympiakos Nicosia soon followed, but it was during the early parts of the 2014-15 season that he reignited his career. After scoring 12 goals in 17 games for Kozakken Boys, Burton Albion pursued their interest to bring him to the Pirelli Stadium.
Since arriving at The Brewers, the tricky forward has mesmerised supporters with some dazzling displays. His pace and ability on the ball allows him to pass defenders easily, and he knows where the back of the net is. Being able to operate in a central role or out wide is another feature that is a positive, and he’ll be looking to punish Coventry regardless of the position he is deployed in.
The now 30-year old was on the books at Liverpool and Wrexham as a youngster but his first taste of men’s football came about when he joined Vauxhall Motors in 2004. He continued his development in the non-league circles with Prescot Cables and Southport before joining Morecambe on loan in 2009.
After making the switch permanent, he began to impress in the football league and a move to Scunthorpe occurred in 2011. After making over a century of appearances for The Iron and impressing for Doncaster in the 2013-14 season, Championsip side Birmingham City acquired his services.
Despite such promise, he couldn’t force his way into The Blues’ side and subsequent loan spell at Chesterfield and Burton came to fruition. He has currently made 24 appearances for The Brewers this term and he has been a real menace down the flank. With an unerring ability to pick a pass and cross with quality, The Sky Blues will have to work hard to nullify him.
Burton Albions number one goalkeeper is another player that first made his name in the lower reaches of English football. After playing in the non-league game with Harrogate Railway Athletic and Harrogate Town, the Scot was snapped up by Bradford City after training with the club for a year whilst simultaneously studying for a sports coaching degree.
McLaughlin went on to play 125 games for The Bantams and built up a reputation of being a very good goalkeeper at this level. After staying at Valley Parade from 2008 until 2014, he made the move to Burton who were in League Two upon his arrival.
He made an instant impact at the Pirelli and he played an important role as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s side won promotion last season. This season has been a good one for the keeper so far too, holding the best goals against record in the league. Coventry’s forward line will have to be on top of their game to beat him.
From The Home Camp – Tony Mowbray
“I’ve told my players that they followed the game-plan to a tee, frustrating probably the best team in the league at retaining possession and playing through teams, and we were always conscious that we could score a second on the break. I think on the balance of play and chances created we feel hugely frustrated not to win – especially because it was another incredible turnout and the fans were magnificent from the start.”
“I’m sorry we couldn’t get the three points for them but owe have another opportunity against Burton at the weekend. That’s another massive game against a totally different team.”
“I put the two games into a bracket. Against a team who can retain the ball for long periods it can be difficult to organise your side when you’ve got two hugely creative players but you need that extra discipline out of possession.”
“I think it will be a day to be patient, different to Walsall. I am not sure Burton are a wholly possession team but they are very hard to break down as their defensive record and clean sheets suggest. We can’t think we’re going to go out and steam roller them.”
View From The Opposition – Nigel Clough
“A big crowd is expected and when you go to the likes of the Ricoh, it makes you realise what kind of club you are up against. The players have done well when they’ve gone to the big stadiums and the big clubs though.”
“I think Coventry are definitely the best team in the league when you look at their squad. Armstrong has possibly been the signing of the season. You only have to look at the players who were on their bench last night as well. I think the key for them has been the quality of their loan signings.”
This is certainly another huge game for us as a club. At this stage of the season we are usually fighting a relegation battle, but this term a win could take us towards the summit of League One. After the disappointment of dropping two points against Walsall, we’ll be motivated to gain a much needed victory.
Nobody can deny that it will be an extremely challenging task to defeat the side who are setting the pace in the division. Burton will probably look at the fixture and think a point would be a reasonable achievement, they just simply can’t lose if they want to pull away from us.
The away fixture was a tight affair and The Brewers were undeniably tricky to break down. Statistics don’t usually lie, and with the away side possessing the best defensive record of all our League One counterparts, City will have to be patient in order to get on the scoresheet.
Despite Burton not scoring the largest number of goals, they do have a lot of quality in the attacking third. The likes of Nasser El Khayati have the potential to torment the best of teams on their day, it’s our job to quieten his influence on proceedings.
A lot of fans are saying we must win this game if we are to stay in the fight for the top two, and despite not entirely agreeing with them, it would be a huge aid. The last time we played top of the league will reign supreme in most people’s minds; a dominant 4-1 triumph over a very good team.
As I have been prior to every game this srason, I am fairly confident. On our day we can beat any team, we’ve just got to lose this notion that the game is won when we go 1-0 up. I am fancying this to be a low scoring affair, however, so I will be going for a narrow Coventry win.
Coventry City 1-0 Burton Albion