Burnley again look to find the cure for their Europa League hangover Saturday when they host in-form Bournemouth trying to avoid a fifth loss on the trot.
POTENTIAL STARTING XIs
The Clarets (0-1-4) are at the foot of the Premier League table entering this weekend’s matches, trailing Newcastle United on goal difference while joining Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town as the top flight’s only sides without a win. While much was made of Burnley’s first European adventure in a half-century as they got to the brink of the Europa League group stages, Sean Dyche’s side has yet to pull out of what he described as a “fog” mentally.
“I think it’s a mentality thing. Some of it can be worked at on the training ground of course, but I call it bottoming out; a collective moment when a group of players bottom out,” Dyche explained to the club’s official website after their 1-0 loss at Wolverhampton last weekend.
“When we got into the Europa League there was this immediate noise about it being tough. People ramp it up and say ‘there you are, I told you.’
“Well, we have to find a way through that and I remind them they are roughly the same group of players who finished seventh last season. Players will get back to their form and confidence, but you have to earn that right.”
The goal that consigned Burnley to defeat was the type of goal they conceded so rarely last term – Wolverhampton cycled the ball on the right side before midfielder Johan Berg Gudmundsson failed to track Matt Doherty’s run, and that started a chain of rotational reactions one-half step late as Raul Jimenez beat Joe Hart inside the left post on 61 minutes.
The loss overshadowed a strong effort by Hart, who made six saves as Wolves peppered Burnley’s goal with 30 shots. The former England No. 1 thinks the team needs a coming together to avoid the first five-match losing streak at the Premier League level in club history.
“The past is the past for everyone, including myself and we need to start living in the now with this squad,” Hart said. “We’ve got to be real with each other, real with the manager and we move forward. We’ve got good quality, good desire and good team spirit and we have to start translating that.”
Burnley have gone 229 minutes without a goal in league play since Jack Tarkowski netted late in the first half of their 4-2 defeat at Fulham on Aug. 26. Midfielder Steven Defour could be among the reserves for this match after playing 60 minutes midweek for the Under-23 side in his first action in eight months following knee surgery and a calf injury.
If Dyche wanted to shake things up in the front, he could let Matej Vydra lead the line over Sam Vokes and Chris Wood. Vydra has come off the bench in the last three matches and scored the equaliser in Burnley’s 1-1 draw in their second-leg tie versus Olympiacos in their Europa League playoff.
Bournemouth (3-1-1) look to be one of the sides who can supplant Burnley as the best of the rest in the Premier League beneath the “Big Six.” The Cherries’ lone loss came in a respectable 2-0 defeat at unbeaten Chelsea in which the match was scoreless until the 72nd minute, and they stormed out of the international break to a 4-2 home victory over Leicester City last weekend.
Ryan Fraser had a first-half brace and assisted on a goal by Adam Smith while Joshua King converted a penalty for Bournemouth, who conceded twice late with the result well in hand. After struggling to score goals in league play last term and finishing with 45, the Cherries have already potted 10 while scoring at least twice in every contest save their loss to Chelsea.
“He can go wherever he wants to go, with his age, attitude, he has a really bright future,” Cherries coach Eddie Howe said of Fraser to the club’s official website. “The key thing for him is believing how good he is and he’s reinforcing that himself with his goal and performance.”
The 10 points through five matches have the Cherries fifth in the table – two back of fellow surprise package Watford for the final Champions League spot – but Howe is warning his team against complacency after equaling the point total it took 11 matches to achieve last term.
“I’m really pleased but it’s just the start. In this league, the minute you get comfortable, it becomes very difficult,” Howe told the Bournemouth Echo. “The next game is the thing to focus on and we know how tough that is going to be.
“It’s all hands to the pump ahead of Burnley now.”
Fraser – the pocket Scot who stands all of 5-foot-4 — has been tormenting opponents and factored on seven of Bournemouth’s 13 goals in all competitions. Callum Wilson has been part of five – scoring two and assisting on three others – while King has converted twice from the spot and set up two more.
The teams have split their league matches in each of the last two seasons, but the road teams were victorious in 2017-18. Bournemouth rallied to win last term’s corresponding fixture as King and Wilson scored in the final quarter-hour to offset an early goal by Wood.
Per Ladbrokes, Bournemouth’s recent form has made them slight favourites at 6/4, with Burnley 9/5 underdogs. The draw is the longshot of this contest, with 11/5 odds on the team’s splitting the points.
There are 3/1 odds for Bournemouth to win with a total goal haul above 2.5, while there are also 3/1 odds for a 0-0 or 1-1 draw. A Burnley victory with three or more goals has 15/4 odds, while a Bournemouth clampdown and win under 2.5 goals checks in at 17/4. Oddsmakers are not overly sold on a tight low-scoring Clarets victory, with a home win under 2.5 goals at 24/5.
Bournemouth’s Wilson and Burnley’s Wood are joint-favourites to score the first goal of the match at 5/1 odds, while Cherries reserve striker Jermaine Defoe and Burnley’s Sam Vokes are close behind joint-third at 11/2. The Burnley duo of Vydra and Barnes are bracketing Bournemouth’s King at 6/1.
Wilson and Wood also lead the line for any-time goal-scorers at 9/5 odds, with Defoe and Vokes at 2/1. Barnes, who is 21/10 to grab a goal, edges out Vydra and King (9/4) to round out the top five.
From a distance, this match has the feel of one team (Bournemouth) trying to usurp the other (Burnley) for the title of best of the rest. A back-handed crown to wear? Perhaps. But this is how the Premier League has broken off in the big-money era, in which the race for sixth — and by extension seventh since one of the big six almost always win either or both domestic cups — becomes a de facto consolation prize unless a side rides lightning in a bottle the way Leicester City did.
Bournemouth have been an exciting surprise package similar to Watford, minus the fanfare of playing lights-out defence. The Cherries have been the side everyone wants to see do well because they are aesthetically pleasing more than they are blue-class, which is Burnley’s identity and a style that earned the Clarets the reward of European play during the early part of the season.
It is difficult to tell if the Clarets are fatigued from their continental adventures, though they have played 11 matches already compared to other sides logging just six. To his credit, Dyche has noted it is on him and his players to snap out of this funk. But the goal they allowed to Wolves is something that just didn’t happen last term. And Bournemouth have arguably better options up front in the trio of Fraser, Wilson and King to continue making things miserable for Burnley.
This will also be a game about Bournemouth’s maturity. They admittedly shut off late against Leicester City after racking up four goals, and both the 4-0 margin and 4-2 final did not indicate the relatively even play between the sides in the first 45 minutes. But sometimes that happens. A good performance here for Howe’s team should result in no worse than a draw. Whether that happens, of course, is another matter.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 1, Bournemouth 1.