Belfast Telegraph

Shackell could boost Clarets

Burnley captain Jason Shackell could be back in contention for Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with QPR at Turf Moor after a calf injury.

The centre-back's return would ease defensive problems following the loss of Kevin Long, who has had successful anterior cruciate ligament surgery this week, and with Michael Duff (calf) probably not quite ready for action.

David Jones is fit after a bout of sickness this week but fellow midfielder Matt Taylor (Achilles) and defender Stephen Ward (ankle) remain on the sidelines.

Manager Sean Dyche feels his strikeforce is thriving as the club prepare to welcome back the ace goalscorer they lost - Charlie Austin - this weekend.

Austin, who left the Clarets for QPR in 2013, is now one of the Premier League's form strikers having struck 12 times for the Londoners this season.

But Dyche has no interest in what might have been and is happy enough with the forwards he has at his disposal in the fight against relegation.

The highly-rated Danny Ings and Ashley Barnes have impressed in recent weeks, while Sam Vokes marked his return after a nine-month injury lay-off with the equaliser in Monday's FA Cup third-round draw against Tottenham.

Dyche said: "The performance level is good, it is rising. I think we are becoming more clinical at the top end of the pitch. That is always where it is at, across football, any division. That is why strikers are always talked about.

"We think we have got a good group, a healthy group of strikers. We think they are all vying and all slightly different, which gives us a chance to play in different ways.

"We want them to be fit and active and scoring goals, and all be ready. There are good signs."

On-loan West Ham striker Mauro Zarate is expected to make his QPR debut.

Zarate had fallen down West Ham's pecking order behind Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll, despite a bright start in east London after joining from Velez Sarsfield last summer.

West Ham boss Allardyce defended his decision to allow Zarate to leave on loan, saying the striker "wasn't good enough", but the former Lazio man hit back on completing terms with QPR.

"I am happy. I need this, I need to play and Queens Park Rangers have given me this chance to show what I can do," said Zarate.

"The Premier League is the best in the world at this moment.

"Does my style suit the Premier League? Maybe. We will see!

"When I met the manager he told me he wanted to sign me for Portsmouth before, but in that moment I went to Lazio. But now I am here and will play for him.

"I will try to do different things with the ball, some skills to make the difference for the team, for me and for the other players. I am fit and I hope I can be involved on Saturday."

Rangers boss Harry Redknapp cannot yet call on Sandro, with the Brazil midfielder still several weeks away from fitness.

Senior stars like Rob Green and Mauricio Isla should return to the starting line-up after the 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United.

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