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Opposition View: Burton Albion

17 March 2017

Burton Mail's Joshua Murray previews Saturday's encounter at The Pirelli Stadium

Still outside the relegation zone, just how much of an achievement would it be for Burton to stay up this season?

It would be a superb achievement if Burton Albion can maintain their recent momentum and get over the survival line. As many of the players and management staff have mentioned, it would surely surpass even their back-to-back promotions, given the quality, size and resources of the teams they are up against, week in and week out, this season. They have given themselves a very good chance of completing that achievement as well. Many pundits reckoned they would be cast adrift by this stage of the season, but they have maintained enough of a consistency to stay outside the bottom three for all but one week so far this campaign.

How big was the result for Nigel Clough and his men against Nottingham Forest last weekend?

The win over Nottingham Forest last time out was a huge one for several reasons. Most obviously, the three points took them above the 40-point mark and kept them three points outside the drop zone. As Nigel Clough says, every week they remain outside the bottom three is a psychological boost for themselves. On top of that, though, it ensured they dragged Forest into the relegation battle – they are actually below Albion ahead of this weekend’s games.

Burton seem to have hit form at the right time with a run of six unbeaten

The current run of six games unbeaten is Albion’s best of the season. Whereas they were playing open, expansive football earlier in the campaign and really taking games to teams, they have become more pragmatic in recent weeks – intentionally so, according to Clough, because they really are scrapping for every point now.

Their defensive organisation has been absolutely superb. They have only shipped three goals since a 4-1 loss at Brighton & Hove Albion on 11 February, and the commitment and energy in every player to make blocks, stop crosses and track back with their opposite number has been crucial to the run. They are squeezing and frustrating teams out of matches. The addition of quality further upfield in the likes of Cauley Woodrow, Lasse Vigen Christensen, Marvin Sordell and Michael Kightly has meant that they are more clinical with the chances they get as well. Woodrow has scored in three of his four home appearances – and Albion have won every time he has found the net.

The players brought in during the January Transfer Window seem to have really hit the ground running, will they be the ones to look on for on Saturday?

If Burton Albion do stay up, the business done by Nigel Clough and his staff in January may well be seen as one of the primary reasons for their survival. The Brewers have never lacked for desire, commitment or work rate, but there were signs in December – around the time of the defeat at Griffin Park, actually – that they were still short of the ruthless Championship quality up front that could decide games in their favour. Enter Woodrow, Christensen, Kightly, Sordell and Luke Varney – as well as Luke Murphy in central midfield. Each of those additions has made a notable impact, providing that variety and class in attack that can prove so crucial in tight matches. The additions as a whole also offer much more depth to the Brewers squad – Clough suddenly has a variety of options at his disposal if Plan A isn’t working. In terms of a danger man, it is hard to look past Woodrow at the moment. He will be flying high after being called up to the England Under-21 squad on Thursday – and he fully warrants it for his recent displays. He’s a menace to defenders, chasing them down as Albion’s first line of defence, and then showing a cool head in front of goal when called upon.

It will be a first visit to The Pirelli Stadium for our fans on Saturday, what can they expect?

I would imagine the Pirelli Stadium was quite high on the list of many clubs’ away supporters this season. It’s a new ground for many to experience, and with fans being so close to the pitch in the terraces, it can make for a fantastic atmosphere on matchdays.

How will Nigel Clough set his side up to play on Saturday?

Given Clough’s intent to make it into the international break with his side still unbeaten, I wouldn’t expect a completely gung-ho approach. Having said that, on home soil, where they have won three of their last four matches, there will be an intent to seize control early on and grab that first goal. Albion have not yet lost this season after going in front first, and they are proving so solid and adept at defending a lead that they will not fear soaking up Brentford pressure should they break the deadlock.

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