Buoyant Burnley entertain struggling Swansea on Saturday at Turf Moor, kick off 3pm. 11 points and 12 places separate the two teams as Burnley proudly sit 7th in the Premier League table with a very healthy 19 points.
The Swans can count themselves lucky to have escaped relegation last season, saved by a 5 match unbeaten run at the death, having looked doomed for most of the season.
That run inspired them to a 5 game unbeaten start to this season but the wheels have dramatically fallen off lately, with defeats in their last 4 Premier League games making it 7 defeats in 12 in the top league.
They will have to fare a lot better to avoid a repeat of last season. Their free flowing style of football has not been evident for some time and they might have to go back to the Championship to re-discover it.
Their manager, players and fans have been left stewing during the International break due to their latest defeat, a demoralising1-0 home reversal at the Liberty Stadium to an average Brighton side who were playing Championship football last season.
The mood around the club will not have been helped by a fifth home league defeat of the season and the boos and chants at the end of the game from a hostile home crowd wanting the American owner out.
Significantly, the American has rode into town this week to round up manager Paul Clement. Clement declared after the Brighton defeat that he wanted his players to start winning dirty but another defeat to the Clarets may see him beaten to the draw by an owner who will not want to be seen as the bad guy from out of town.
Saturday epitomises the textbook definition of a manager “under pressure”.
In possibly one last throw of the dice Clement’s pre-match preparations have seen him take his players to the local beach for team bonding training sessions. The Sahara desert wouldn’t have been out of place considering the lack of goal power his side have shown this season.
The sale of their two best players, set piece specialist Gylfi Sigurosson and leading bagman Fernando Llorente, has hurt. Deadline day replacements, Portuguese international and Bayern Munich loanee Renato Sanches, and the returning Wilfred Bony have spent more time on the treatment table than on the pitch.
England international debuts were made this week by two of the players on show on Saturday as Llorente’s replacement Tammy Abraham and Burnley’s Jack Cork played against Germany in the 0-0 draw at Wembley. Chelsea loanee Abraham is the leading scorer for the Swans with 4 goals and can perhaps consider himself fortunate to have be given an early opportunity in the England team.
Cork on the other hand has had to work hard to get his recognition. Swansea fans have been crying on forums this week about his departure, conveniently forgetting that Burnley have shown more faith in his ability and given him the platform to perform wonders this season.
A salutary lesson lies there for all clubs. Maybe Southgate is at long last starting to take a leaf out of the Sean Dyche development manual?
The absence of players due to World Cup play offs and international friendlies will have given Dyche some thinking to do this week as he plans for Saturday. Cork, Gudmundsson and Defour should easily slot back into the team but what approach will he take with the emotionally drained Republic of Ireland contingency.
New Zealand’s injured hamstring victim Chris Wood, who will have spent most of the last 2 weeks on an aeroplane travelling around the world gathering air mile benefits, is not likely to be back at his free scoring best, after flying back from Peru to Turf Moor.
Burnley’s success this season has been based on Dyche’s measured approach in fielding a settled side, so it will be interesting to see if the manager veers from his tried and tested methods.
With so many good players waiting in the wings is this the time he decides to rest one or two? Wells, Taylor, Marney and Bardsley are amongst a whole host of Burnley players itching to see some first team EPL action.
Sam Vokes again showed his match winning ability in the last match with another 1-0 win, this time against Southampton. Barnes, Arfield and Westwood have all ably deputised when coming in and strengthen Dyche’s hand if he decides to make changes.
Would it be going a step too far to bring in Charlie Taylor for his first league start of the season and start with a 4-4-2 formation? I would be surprised if Vokes didn’t start, but I still don’t expect to see many changes unless through injury.
For the record in the Premier League, 5 yellow cards leads to a one match suspension. Jack Cork is the only player threatened in this game with 4 cards. Scott Arfield and JamesTarkowski are on 3 cards and all the rest of the players on 2 cards or less.
This bears solid testament to the discipline Sean Dyche has instilled in his teams over the years. There are no Olympic Gold Standard Diving medals on show at Turf Moor!
If the game goes to form there is only one winner. But we can all recognise a banana skin when we see one and this game is definitely one.
The Clarets Premier League record against Swansea is quite simply awful. Played 4 , lost 4. No goals scored in 3 of those games, including the two played at Turf Moor.
The Welsh opposition will be able to name a virtually fully fit squad for the first time this season. The Swans have something to prove to their fans and have already come away unbeaten from three out of the five away grounds visited this season, including an away day at Wembley against Spurs.
When Swansea have lost this season it has usually been by a one goal margin. When Burnley have won this season it is always by a one goal margin.
Something tells me this game will be very close and it would not surprise me if it ended in a low scoring draw. The opportunity is there though for the Clarets to come out strongly and stamp their authority on a dispirited team and collect the full 3 points.
It looks like the players will have to do it by themselves again on Saturday, as the home support has been below usual standards this season. Other than the odd ‘Come on Burnley’ and the awful dirge ‘In our Lancashire Homes’.
The only home crowd excitement seems to be the half time scores and a hot Benedictine with an even hotter pie. Come on Burnley fans, let’s hear the noise!
This Burnley centric match preview was written by uber Burnley fan and regular contributor to Clarets Mad, Michael Donnelly, alias “The Donz”. (TEC).
Source : FootyMad