Having made one of the more intriguing moves before the close of the January window, Burnley has called upon veteran striker Peter Crouch to help in the relegation scrap starting with Saturday’s potential six-point belter versus Southampton at Turf Moor.
POTENTIAL STARTING XIs
The 38-year-old Crouch is no stranger to the Premier League or relegation battles, having been a part of them with Stoke City as they were relegated to the Championship last term. The 2.01-metre Crouch, who has 108 Premier League goals, will try to use his height to help Burnley’s proficiency on corner kicks and other set pieces.
“I still want to achieve things. I want to get more games in the Premier League and I would love to add to the 100 Premier League goals,” said the former England international to Burnley’s official website as he arrives four goals shy of breaking into the top 20 all-time Premier League goal-scoring list. “I know I can impact games at this level. I scored goals last season in the Premier League and I know I will do the same again if given the opportunity this year.
“It’s a club that is stable in the Premier League now. We’ve got to make sure we stay there this year and build on that.”
Crouch – now playing for his seventh top-flight side — arrives at Turf Moor with Burnley (6-5-13) enjoying their best spell of play this term, extending their unbeaten streak in league play to five matches (3-2-0) after a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford versus Manchester United on Tuesday.
But the draw was also two lost points for Burnley, who were two to the good and nine minutes away from a famous victory after Chris Wood scored on 81 minutes. The Clarets conceded a penalty on 87 minutes that Paul Pogba converted, and a stoppage-time equaliser by Victor Lindelof left Burnley on 23 points – in 17th place behind both Crystal Palace and Southampton on goal difference and four points clear of the drop.
“We would have taken a point before the game, especially coming here with the run that they’re on, the form they’re in and the great team that they are,” Wood said. “Being 2-0 up with eight minutes to play we probably needed to do better in seeing it out, but we are going to take the positives and it’s a great place to come and get a point.”
As Crouch enters Turf Moor, fellow striker Sam Vokes departs to Crouch’s former stomping grounds at Stoke City in a separate move as part of a £7 million transfer for the Wales international. Vokes had three goals in 20 league matches but had started just once in Burnley’s last seven league contests.
Southampton (5-8-11) have claimed 14 of their 23 points since Ralph Hasenhuttl replaced the sacked Mark Hughes, with the most recent one coming Wednesday in their 1-1 draw at home versus Crystal Palace. James Ward-Prowse netted the equaliser on 77 minutes for the Saints, who are unbeaten in their last four league matches (2-2-0) and last six overall (2-4-0).
“After sleeping one night, it feels we earned a big, important point (Wednesday),” Hasenhuttl told Southampton’s official website. “We know we didn’t play our best game – we were a little bit slow in our decision making.
“We all have to be patient – myself, the supporters, everyone – because in such games against such an opponent, it’s very difficult to create chances.”
While Burnley opted for a veteran forward to aid their relegation cause, Southampton appear to have stood pat at the transfer deadline, with the only move of note midfielder Jake Hesketh being loaned to League Two side MK Dons. Southampton had already let Cedric depart on loan to Inter Milan while centre back Wesley Hoedt was loaned out to Celta Vigo.
Hasenhuttl spent most of his arrival after his hiring scouting Southampton’s younger players, and the German seems fairly excited to get into the fray with the hand he’s been dealt after trimming the squad of what he felt was excess.
“I feel it since the first day I was here. If you’d told me when I was starting that on this matchday we are three or four points ahead of Cardiff, I would’ve said ‘perfect, I’ll take this,'” the gaffer said. “I knew it would take until the end of the season, but these two games can be a crucial step in the right direction.
“The team is unbeaten in 2019 until now – two draws and two wins in the Premier League – that’s more than we could expect.”
Hasenhuttl has an injury concern over midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who suffered a head injury versus Palace and is questionable for this contest.
The teams opened the 2018-19 season with a scoreless draw at St Mary’s, with Burnley extending their unbeaten run over Southampton to four matches (2-2-0). The Clarets are 2-1-0 at home versus Southampton in Premier League play, recording a pair of 1-0 victories before a 1-1 stalemate last term.
Per Bet365, Burnley are 6/4 favourites to continue their positive form in league play with another three points, while Southampton are 9/5 underdogs to pick up a vital three points in the relegation scrap. The draw is the longshot among the three options at 9/4.
Oddsmakers are not expecting much offence from either side, with 4/5 odds on there being fewer than 2.5 goals compared to even money to clear that marker. Despite the longer odds on the draw, there are 4/5 odds both teams will score compared to 19/20 odds of there being at least one zero on the board at the final whistle.
Southampton’s Danny Ings leads the list for first goal-scorer options at 4/1, while a trio of Clarets — Barnes, Wood, and Matej Vydra — are all 11/2 picks to make it 1-0 at Turf Moor. A pair of Saints, Charlie Austin and Michael Obafemi, are 6/1 choices along with Burnley forward Sam Vokes.
Ings is also a 13/10 pick to score during the match, with Barnes, Wood, and Vydra lurking at 15/8. Austin, Obafemi, and Vokes are all 21/10 options, followed by Sam Gallagher (9/4), Shane Long (12/5) and Nathan Redmond (13/5).
Enter “The Robot.”
The addition of Crouch is an interesting low-risk, high-reward move for Dyche and the Clarets. His primary role will be that of a 30-minute man, designed to throw off the pace of a match and hopefully grab an equaliser or match-winner off a set piece. The latter plays well into Crouch’s wheelhouse since Burnley are tied for eighth in the Premier League with eight goals off set pieces.
This match will also be a interesting test for the new-look Southampton since Hasenhuttl took over versus a team that plays as direct as Burnley. The Saints have a decent amount of offensive talent at the ready, and with eight points from their last four matches, they have a chance to kick on a little bit and create some separation from the bottom three.
The Clarets were unlucky to not escape Old Trafford with three points, but sometimes that’s what squeaky bum time does to teams when they try to punch above their weight. This should be an entertaining encounter, and maybe the Robot will dance once more.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 1, Southampton 1.
OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 25 PREVIEWS:
Tottenham Hotspur (18-0-6) vs. Newcastle United (6-6-12)
Everton (9-6-9) vs. Wolverhampton (10-5-9)
Crystal Palace (6-5-13) vs. Fulham (4-5-15)
Manchester City (18-3-3) vs. Arsenal (14-5-5)