Needing these three points to help them gain some distance from the bottom three, Burnley look to deal new Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers his second road defeat in as many matches since taking over as the two sides collide at Turf Moor on Saturday.
The Clarets (8-6-16) are on 30 points with eight matches remaining, trailing Southampton on goal difference while entering this contest two points clear of the drop ahead of Cardiff City. All told, there are six teams separated by six points fighting to avoid being the side who will join Fulham and Huddersfield Town in being relegated to the Championship.
Sean Dyche’s team have dropped three on the spin and coming off a 4-2 defeat at Anfield to Liverpool last weekend. Ashley Westwood gave Burnley a shock lead on six minutes with an Olimpico corner kick that went directly into the net, but the Clarets hailed to handle such prosperity as Liverpool had grabbed the lead before the half-hour.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson provided a flicker of hope for a point with a goal in second-half stoppage time to make it 3-2, but Burnley conceded shortly afterwards. Ahead of this match, though, the atmosphere around Turf Moor was one of positivity as keeper Tom Heaton and defender James Tarkowski were called up to the England national squad for the opening Euro 2020 qualifiers while midfielder Dwight McNeil will be with the Three Lions’ Under-20 squad.
“The number of internationals is a really pleasing side-effect of all the varying success we’ve had over the years,” Dyche told the club’s official website, noting that seven players will be on international duty following this contest. “The sheer number of call-ups we get now, compared to when we came, is radically different and particularly with England it had been many a year since a player had been called up.”
Dyche was especially pleased with McNeil being recognised, as the 19-year-old has become a fixture in Dyche’s starting XI over the past few months and has contributed one goal and four assists in 13 matches overall.
“That’s a great thing for him. I think he deserves it and he continues to earn the right to have all these good things to happen to him,” the Clarets boss said. “He has merited it because when you look around there are not that many 19-year-olds playing regularly in the Premier League and he’s been doing that.
“I think when you are playing in this league it’s a whole new challenge than playing development football, but it’s a great career progression for him and another step on the ladder that he keeps climbing.”
Leicester City will also be well-represented both in England and around the globe during the international break. Centre back Harry Maguire and left back Ben Chilwell will be on the senior squad while James Maddison and Demarai Gray are among four Foxes who will be toiling for the Under-21 side ahead of this summer’s European Championship finals.
At the club level, Rodgers has split his first two games with Leicester City (11-5-14), who provided their new gaffer his first victory in the Midlands last weekend with a 3-1 triumph over Fulham. Youri Tielemans scored his first goal since joining the club and Jamie Vardy added a second-half brace in the final 12 minutes – including his 100th competitive goal with the club.
Rodgers has quickly established his influence on the Foxes, who are moving faster with and without the ball and often on the front foot. The former Celtic and Liverpool boss will be using these final eight matches as a testing grounds of sorts to see what does and does not work, but he is eager to instill the values he deems necessary for the club’s successful reboot.
“I was really pleased with the performance (against Fulham) having had that full week to work with the players, and we looked to impose the ideas,” Rodgers said at his Thursday press conference. “When I went away after the game and watched it, it was actually better than what I thought at the time.
“There was lots of really good moments, in particular in the first half, and we had a setback in the early part of the second half in the game, but the players showed what good teams do. Good teams will start quickly and finish strongly and, in that first 20 minutes, we got the goal – with opportunities to score more – and then we finished the game really strongly.”
Vardy has scored three goals in the two games Rodgers has been in charge. While on the other side of 30, the pairing appears to dovetail nicely with Vardy’s relentless industry and Rodgers’ acknowledgment of the striker’s nous and abilities.
“Everyone knows his journey, but it’s only really when you come in and you work with someone and you see them close up and you see the real value of them,” Rodgers said of Vardy, who is just the seventh player in club history with 100 goals. “Because, as a footballer, he’s tactically very, very good. He’s not just a boy that scores goals and runs forward, his ability to understand the game from a tactical perspective is very good.
“He will really be the focus of when we press the game and it’s good because he can participate in that because tactically he’s very good. He has a real mental strength, he loves to train, he wants to work. He’s early 30s but he wants to get better. You can see the strength in his legs, the speed in his game.”
Vardy has two goals in seven Premier League encounters with Burnley, scoring both goals at Turf Moor.
The teams played to an emotional scoreless draw in the reverse fixture in November at King Power Stadium, the first match played following the tragic death of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash at the club’s ground the week prior.
Burnley have won the last two at Turf Moor over Leicester City after losing the previous four, with three of those defeats coming in the Championship.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 1, Leicester City 1.