Burnley travel to the North East buoyed by successive home victories over Manchester United and Everton, which leaves them in the lofty position of 7th in the Premier League table.
The Clarets were moments away from reaching the Carling Cup final last year before Roman Pavyluchenko and then Jermain Defoe broke thousands of Lancastrians’ hearts by saving Spurs’ blushes at the end of extra time in the second leg of the semi-final at Turf Moor.
Wins against Chelsea, Arsenal and Fulham earlier in the competition had boosted confidence, and the effect of cup run was a major factor in Burnley’s promotion.
How Owen Coyle treats the competition this season, however, is anyone’s guess. The Carling Cup is after all a route into Europe, and Burnley could conceivably go one step further than last year.
However, with a big game at Chelsea coming up on Saturday, Coyle may want to blood some youngsters, such as Jay Rodriguez and Ecuadorian winger Fernando Guerrero, as well as giving some game time to men who have missed out so far, such as David Edgar, Kevin McDonald, Richard Eckersley, Diego Penny, Steven Thompson and Brian Easton. Chris Eagles is almost certain to be given the chance to stake his claim for a place in the team.
Steven Caldwell is nearing a return but won’t be ready for a recall, and neither will Michael Duff. Burnley have no other injury concerns.
Hartlepool are without former Manchester United midfielder Ritchie Jones, who was linked with the Clarets last summer. They are also likely to be without Colin Larkin and Ben Clark, who are recovering from injuries.
Victoria Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Hartlepool of late, with four defeats on the bounce, but they did pick up their first win of the season at the weekend when Jeff Stelling’s hero James Brown notched the winner at Gillingham. Burnley haven’t won in five on the road – if you don’t count Wembley – and have never actually beaten Hartlepool away from home.
Like the Clarets Hartlepool have found goals tough to come by this season, only bagging three times in their five games to date. But Burnley’s attack should be far too superior, and the Clarets will look to put an impressive scoreline on the board to boost confidence further ahead of a difficult pair of away games at Stamford Bridge and Anfield.
This article was written for FansOnline.