2018-19 EPL Match Day 15 Preview — Burnley (2-3-9) vs. Liverpool (11-3-0)

It is the kind of victory than can galvanise a team to do special things in a season. But facing a short turnaround, Liverpool know their dramatic Merseyside Derby win will mean little if they do not follow it up with another three points Wednesday at Turf Moor versus struggling Burnley.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The 232nd matchup between the Reds and Everton was a tense affair with Liverpool goalkeeper Allison preserving a scoreless deadlock early with a world-class save on a point-blank header from Andre Gomes inside the six-yard box before Joe Gomez cleared the ball off the line midway through the first half. There were few scoreless chances over the final 45 minutes until a moment of sheer luck and folly followed in stoppage time.

Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk scuffed a volley attempt, slicing it like a pop-up with his right foot and turning away in disgust as it sailed towards goal. Everton keeper Jordan Pickford, trying to make a play on it, failed to tip it over the bar for a corner kick but instead knocked it straight up, causing it to bounce on the top of the crossbar.

From there it fell forward and Divock Origi – the last gamble off the bench from Jurgen Klopp and playing his first Premier League match since the start of last season – nodded it home in the 96th minute to send the Kop into delirium and his manager into a frenzied on-pitch celebration with Alisson that will undoubtedly result, in the very least, a five-figure fine.

The 1-0 victory marked a 19th straight year Everton would leave Anfield and retreat across Stanley Park without a victory, but more importantly for Liverpool (11-3-0), the result kept them two points behind defending champions Manchester City.

“It was a really difficult game today – derbies are always difficult but today it was a completely different difficult to the last few years,” Klopp said post-match. “All my respect for Everton, they were really good. Both teams delivered a proper fight, a proper derby from the first second.

“Of course, it was a bit lucky – Virg, in the moment when the ball left his foot I thought it was over and then you see the back-spin, you see the ball flies direct onto the crossbar and then it was an unthankful job for Pickford and Divock was there. It was a very intense game and obviously a much nicer finish for us.”

Klopp opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation for this match, putting his best four attacking options out there in Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri. Given the intensity of the derby, it would not be surprising to see Klopp revert to the 4-3-3 he has used for most of the season, with the most obvious change being Jordan Henderson back in the middle of the park after serving his one-match ban for his double booking versus Watford.

James Milner and Naby Keita could complete the midfield trio given the former was an unused substitute and the latter entered for Shaqiri in the 71st minute. In defence, it would not be surprising to see either Gomez or Van Dijk get this match off with Dejan Lovren entering in central defence.

While Liverpool are coming off the highest of highs, Burnley (2-3-9) continue to deal with the lows of a season that began with such promise and Europa League qualifying rounds. The Clarets are ahead of only Fulham in the table after their fifth loss in six matches, a 2-0 defeat at Crystal Park on Saturday.

“We are in that strange position where the eye of the tiger has gone a little. Last year everyone was on it, all of the time, and we showed no fear,” manager Sean Dyche told the club’s official website after the loss. “We looked people in the eye and said, ‘you had better be ready, because we are’ and that gives you a chance with everything, particularly when you have that underdog feel.

“Our status has changed, which should be a good thing. The players and the club have become more recognised, because of the achievements of last season, and that brings a different demand. I actually enjoy that, because we’ve worked hard to be recognised. But while some individuals love that and thrive on it, others find it really tough and we are kind of in that mixed bag and it’s affecting the group tactically.”

What made the performance all the more jarring is that Burnley – a sound side last term who finished seventh by conceding just 39 goals – have already shipped 29 through 14 matches. The offence is not helping matters any with just four goals during their seven-match winless spell (0-2-5) and did not register a shot on target versus the Eagles.

Crystal Palace accumulated a 29-4 edge in overall shots while keeping Joe Hart busy – the Burnley keeper finished with seven saves and has a Premier League-high 61.

It would not be surprising to see Dyche restore Sam Vokes as his centre-forward over Chris Wood considering the New Zealand international has gone three matches without a goal in the first XI.

The Clarets have just one win in eight top-flight matches (1-1-6) versus Liverpool, a 2-0 victory in 2016-17. Liverpool scratched out a 2-1 win in last season’s corresponding fixture, with defender Ragnar Klavan scoring the winner on 94 minutes.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Liverpool are convincing 2/7 favourites to extend Burnley’s misery while remaining their stalking of Manchester City. The odds of the Clarets nicking a point from this contest are 19/4, and they are 13/1 longshots to claim all three points with a shock scoreline.

Oddsmakers are also expecting goals, with 8/13 odds listed for a total over 2.5 goals compared to 13/10 for finishing under that threshold. There also is not much faith in Burnley putting one past Alisson it seems since there are 4/6 odds for at least one clean sheet compared to 11/10 odds for both teams to score.

Salah leads the line for first goal-scorers at 12/5, followed by Daniel Sturridge (11/4). Origi’s late heroics have moved him to third on the list at 15/4, followed by Liverpool’s other primary strikers Firmino (4/1) and Mane (9/2). Shaqiri continues the list of Reds at 6/1, with the rested James Milner (9/1) and somewhat-rested Keita (11/1) also ahead of top Burnley options Ashley Wood, Matej Vydra and Chris Wood (12/1).

Salah, Sturridge, and Origi all are better than even money odds to score in this match, ranging from 4/7 to 20/21. Firmino (21/20) and Mane (6/5) are just off that level, with Shaqiri checking in at 13/8. Milner has 13/5 odds and Keita is 10/3. Burnley’s aforementioned trio are all 15/4 to provide a goal for the home supporters.

PREDICTION

While there is some concern about Liverpool potentially suffering a letdown after such a dramatic victory, there is also the matter of player rotation ahead of their Champions League showdown versus Napoli next Tuesday. The good news for Klopp is he will be able to rotate his side back and forth based on the two formations he has used, and he also has the depth in terms of bodies to make sure everyone is fresh to face the Italian side.

There will likely be at least four new faces in the starting XI, and it would not be surprising to see Klopp swap out both central defenders and go with Lovren and Joel Matip. There will also likely be room out wide for Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne over the next two matches as they will deputise for Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. 

An entirely new midfield is not out of the question with Milner and Henderson fully fresh, and there will be some changes up front. Who, though, is anyone’s guess, but the expectation is Sturridge will lead the line for this match, and Origi possibly getting the start with Firmino coming off the bench.

While Burnley are in a relegation fight, it is wise to take a moment to compare the Clarets with one of their bottom three brethren in Southampton. The former have the iron will of Sean Dyche, who is not deluding himself or his side when it comes to the work that has to be done to climb upwards.

Contrast that with Southampton, now on their fourth manager in less than two seasons following the (overdue) sacking of Mark Hughes on Monday. The Saints appear to be a team that simply cannot get out of their own way, squandering points from a winning position more times than they care to admit.

Simply put, Burnley have to improve. At the same time, Dyche’s steadfastness and focus on the task at hand provides optimism they can. It may not happen in this match, but it does need to happen soon for the Clarets. The back four will be the key (or fault) for that revival, and even facing second-choice strikers in this contest will not do Burnley much good.

This is a match about small steps for the Clarets, and maybe they can steal a point if things break right. But the more important match comes this weekend at Brighton and Hove Albion, and winning that match starts with the small steps in this one.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 0, Liverpool 2.

OTHER EPL Match Day 15 Previews:
Bournemouth (6-2-6) vs. Huddersfield Town (2-4-8)
Watford (6-2-6) vs. Manchester City (12-2-0)
Wolverhampton (4-4-6) vs. Chelsea (9-4-1)
Manchester United (6-4-4) vs. Arsenal (9-3-2)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 12 Preview — Leicester City (5-1-5) vs. Burnley (2-2-7)

The pain is still raw and apparent in the Midlands, where the tears still flow over the tragic death of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash as he was leaving King Power Stadium a fortnight ago.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Saturday’s match against Burnley marks the first at King Power Stadium since the Foxes lost their owner, and emotions for players, staff and supporters will again be running high as the club prepares for the difficult task of honouring one of their own.

The tributes of flowers, scarves, cards and shirts have overwhelmed Filbert Way both physically – they wrap around the entire length of the stadium – and emotionally as the players and staff were often seen walking around the area in the days immediately following the crash that claimed four lives in addition to the Leicester City owner. The players also flew to Srivaddhanaprabha’s native Thailand during the week to pay their respects.

The club announced Wednesday they will begin relocating the tributes to a designated area near the southeast corner of King Power Stadium, close to the actual site of the crash which has been cleared to be used by investigators.

There will be other tributes ahead of the match, with a large number of supporters expected to walk from Jubilee Square to King Power Stadium. There will be a two-minute silence observed, with supporters requested to raise the scarves during that observance to honour the lives lost. There will also be what the team has called a “Tribute to Khun Vichai” video that will be played pre-match as the club and their supporters come to grips with all that has transpired in the past fortnight.

“It’s not easy to prepare this game, but the togetherness between us all, it’s a good feeling, a good energy, a fantastic strength,” said manager Claude Puel to the club’s official website. “Our strength, spirit and positive attitude, as well as the support of our fans, will be very important. We know our fans, they are fantastic… there were 3,000 of them at our last game in Cardiff, it was a fantastic reunion with the fans After the game, there was a lot of emotion that we shared with them and we can imagine what it will be like at home with 30,000 people in the stadium.”

“We have lost what feels like a family member and we wouldn’t have been here without him,” added keeper Kasper Schmeichel, who witnessed the crash, to The Times. “When he took over, this club was in a pretty precarious situation and to build what he built is amazing. It is one thing building a club and a team who can perform on the pitch but we are all a lot more proud of being part of the club he has created and the feeling he has instilled in everyone being welcomed.”

Some of the club’s catharsis was found last weekend in Wales, where Leicester City recorded a 1-0 victory over Cardiff City. Demarai Gray side-footed a cross from Ben Chilwell in the 55th minute for the match-winner, helping overcome the loss of standout centre back Harry Maguire.

The England international could be facing a lengthy spell out of action with a leg injury suffered in the first half-hour. Midfielder and top playmaker James Maddison will also miss this match and the England fixtures, though it is believed he will be able to return straightaway following the international break.

Jonny Evans is expected to take Maguire’s spot in central defence alongside Wes Morgan, while Marc Albrighton is the most likely replacement for Maddison in the middle of the park.

All the goings-on surrounding Leicester City could simply be pretext to an additional heaping of misery onto Burnley (2-2-7), who arrive in the Midlands having dropped three on the trot while shipping 13 goals. Though there is no shame in being overrun by reigning champions Manchester City and Chelsea, alarm bells were undoubtedly ringing after last weekend’s 4-2 defeat at West Ham United.

The Clarets pulled level twice at London Stadium, first through Jon Berg Gudmundsson at the end of the first half and through Chris Wood on 77 minutes, but a breakdown seven minutes later resulted in a go-ahead goal by the Hammers, who then put Burnley out of their misery with a fourth in stoppage time.

Burnley gaffer Sean Dyche, who was at King Power Stadium to scout Leicester City and West Ham the day of the helicopter crash, has been walking a delicate line between training his side for this match and being properly respectful of all that will take place around them.

“We will approach it in the best, most respectful way we can. That means letting the players know that the feeling of the day, predominantly, is going to be all about Leicester – and rightly so,” Dyche told the club’s official website. “I know their Director of Football, Jon Rudkin, who is someone I class as a friend, and I sent him a couple of texts saying that we will play any part we can, if needed.

“It is a horrible loss to the football club because I know all about that club. Being from Kettering, I’ve seen the changes, from when I was a kid to what it is now, and since the owners have been there as a family they have built a real connection with people there.”

That fine line has been difficult considering Burnley’s struggles, which have dropped them to 15th in the table and two points clear of the drop. The Clarets have yet to find their footing following a season that ended so positively with a Europa League berth, and Steven Defour knows his side has to kick on at some point to avoid being caught up in the relegation scrap.

“Each year we’ve had a bad spell at some point. The last two years we had a bad spell more in January and February,” the midfielder said. “We’re having it now and I hope we can close it as soon as possible and we can look up and kick on the season. Get back in our rhythm, get back to basics and the quality we had last year and everything will sort itself out.”

Burnley’s defence, which has already taken hits this year with the absences of Ben Gibson and Stephen Ward, could be further thinned without centre back James Tarkowski, who has been dealing with a groin issue nearly the entire season. Right back Phil Bardsley could be in line for a return, along with midfielder Jack Cork, as the latter missed his first league match last week with an ankle injury.

The home team won both matches last term, with Leicester City claiming a 1-0 victory on Gray’s sixth-minute goal. Burnley, though, have won two of the last three meetings after a 10-match winless stretch (0-3-7).

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Leicester City are firm favourites to claim all three points with 1/2 odds, while the Clarets are 6/1 underdogs to stop the rot and pull out a victory. The odds of the teams sharing the points are 16/5.

The Foxes have 13/10 odds to win with more than 2.5 goals scored in this contest, and offer a 13/5 return for 1-0 or 2-0 scoreline. There are 4/1 odds for a 0-0 or 1-1 draw, while Burnley have 11/1 odds for a victory over the 2.5 goals threshold and 12/1 under it.

As expected, Jamie Vardy is the top choice among oddsmakers to score the first goal of the contest, fetching 11/4 odds. Teammates Kelechi Iheanacho and Shinjo Okazaki round out the top three places as both are 9/2, with Leicester’s Fousseni Diabate a surprising fourth option at 6/1, edging out Gray (13/2). Wood is the top pick for the visitors, with his 15/2 odds the same as “No Goal-scorer,” while Sam Vokes is further back at 17/2.

Vardy is better than even money to score over the course of the 90 minutes at 10/11, with Iheanacho (6/4) and Okazaki (13/8) among the limited options with shorter than 2/1 odds. Gray is fourth at 11/5, while Wood again leads the Burnley picks at 13/5.

PREDICTION

How much more do they have left to give? While not trying to ask a mean-spirited question given the circumstances of the past fortnight, it is a fair question to ask of Puel and his Leicester City players. After their victory over Cardiff City, the players flew to Thailand almost straightaway to attend Srivaddhanaprabha’s funeral as part of the seven days of recitation ceremonies.

The whirlwind that has followed the passing of the Leicester City owner has been minimal in terms of distractions — the players have flown to Thailand and back to resume practice for this contest and Puel has said all the right things and has been an absolute pillar of strength to the Leicester community. The latter will be something keenly remembered since many of the supporters were not entirely sold on the Frenchman when he took over the club.

For this match, it is the two ends that will likely determine Leicester City’s chances for victory here — Schmeichel and Vardy. Of all the players on the club, Schmeichel has had the most to bear in some ways as being a witness to the crash. How he has processed the grief — he has said he has spoken to someone — is his alone to hold, but there will likely be an inspired effort from the Denmark international.

The same holds true for Vardy, who became the face of this franchise in their fairy tale run to the 2016 Premier League title. The relentless running, the tireless industry, the thrill of the chase, these are all things the striker has brought to the Midlands, and for 90 minutes on Saturday, he will likely deplete himself like few, if any times, over the course of his career. A goal from the former England international, regardless of rooting interests, would be something well-received.

In the grand scheme of the narrative of this match, Burnley are but extras, but they are also the right extras. There are few people other than Dyche who can put all this in a proper perspective as it relates to his side, and to his credit, he has done so in a first-class way. His Clarets, though, need a victory, and a defence that has struggled in quality through a lack of depth will get no respite from Vardy and Iheanacho, whose industry will need to compensate in the fall-off of playmaking quality from Maddison to Albrighton in the No. 10 role.

It is a match where the football is secondary, but a result is required. It sound trite to call a Leicester City victory a “happy ending,” but it is the one most fitting on this difficult day.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: LEICESTER CITY 2, Burnley 0.

OTHER MATCH DAY 12 EPL PREVIEWS:

Huddersfield Town (1-3-7) vs. West Ham United (3-2-6)
Liverpool (8-3-0) vs. Fulham (1-2-8)
Chelsea (8-3-0) vs. Everton (5-3-3)
Manchester City (9-2-0) vs. Manchester United (6-2-3)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 10 Preview — Burnley (2-2-5) vs. Chelsea (6-3-0)

Ruben Loftus-Cheek certainly caught Maurizio Sarri’s attention with his three-goal outburst in Europa League play. Yet the only way to win playing time under the Italian is to pay the same attention to deal defensively as Chelsea look to remain unbeaten on the season Sunday when they face Burnley at Turf Moor.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Fairly or unfairly, high hopes were pinned on Loftus-Cheek following England’s run to the World Cup semifinals this summer, when the 22-year-old showed plenty of promise and industry as a bustling midfielder with physical presence. He displayed flashes of that potential as a full-time starter on loan last season at Crystal Palace, who he helped overcame a dreadful start to a mid-table finish in the Premier League.

In his first season at Stamford Bridge, Sarri wanted to keep Loftus-Cheek at Chelsea (6-3-0), but he became surplus to goods to a degree with the arrival of Mateo Kovacic on loan from Real Madrid in the deal that sent keeper Thibaut Courtois to the reigning three-time Champions League winners.

Loftus-Cheek was also set back by injuries in the early part of the season, but he has been frustrated at dropping below both Kovacic and compatriot Ross Barkley in the pecking order at left midfield while playing just 99 minutes in all competitions heading into Thursday’s match versus BATE Borisov.

But for one glorious hour, all those frustrations washed away as Loftus-Cheek became the first Chelsea player in 12 years to strike for a hat trick in European competition, powering the Pensioners to a 3-1 victory that gave them a firm grip atop Group L. He scored twice in the first eight minutes before being gifted a soft third by BATE keeper Denis Scherbitski and also became the first English-born player to score three goals in a European contest since Peter Osgood and Tommy Baldwin combined for eight goals against Jeunesse Hautcharage in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971.

“He played very, very well,” Sarri told Chelsea’s official website. “In the offensive phase, wonderful. I thought before, from the beginning of the season, he was really a very good player.

“Now I think the same, but I think maybe also he is more suitable to my football. He is improving. He also needs to improve in the defensive phase, but not only Loftus.”

Overall, Sarri made eight changes to the XI that drew Manchester United 2-2 last weekend, and he understands the affection the club and supporters have for Loftus-Cheek, who has come through the team’s academy. But the first-year manager was in constant communication with the midfielder during the match making sure he was positioned correctly on defence, and grasping those concepts may be the only way Loftus-Cheek cracks the league lineup or the match day 18.

“I know the fans love him, of course, because he was in the Academy. That’s normal,” Sarri noted. “It is very difficult to solve the tactical problem without an improvement in the defensive phase of these three midfielders. We can try, but we need to work and I need the cooperation of the players.”

Chelsea enter this match third in the table, ahead of London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal on goal difference while trailing reigning champions Manchester City and Liverpool on goal difference. Staying unbeaten, though, could be challenging if star winger Eden Hazard – who has a team-high eight goals in all competitions – is unable to play. Sarri held him out of Thursday’s match with a back injury, and the Belgium likely will be a match-time decision for this contest.

If Hazard is unable to play, Willian will likely replace him on the left wing as he did Thursday on the attacking line with Spaniards Alvaro Morata and Pedro. Centre-forward Olivier Giroud failed to distinguish himself Thursday, which means Morata is all but certain to lead the line as Sarri has been playing the hot hand at that position.

Burnley (2-2-5) can no longer use the Europa League preliminary rounds hangover as an excuse for their wildly inconsistent play as they try to re-discover the form that fueled their seventh-place finish last term. The Clarets’ bid to extend their unbeaten streak to four matches in league play was roundly swatted by Manchester City, who put them to the sword by a 5-0 count at the Etihad last weekend.

Sean Dyche’s team was competitive in the first half and trailed 1-0 at the interval, but goals two minutes apart by Bernado Silva and Fernandinho early in the second turned the final half-hour into a training ground exercise for the champions, who ruined Burnley keeper Joe Hart’s return to the City grounds as an opponent for the first time after a decade of service with the team.

“The feeling of frustration is a not nice one,” said Hart, who made 348 appearances for City before joining Burnley in the summer, to the club’s official website. “I appreciated the reception, but I came here as a Burnley player and the only thing I cared about was trying to get a result for us, so it wasn’t the perfect day.”

The good news for Burnley is they are closer to resembling the full-strength side that performed so well last term to earn European play. Steven Defour saw his first action last weekend after missing nine months due to injury, while midfielder and Ireland international Robbie Brady could be among the 18 for this contest after being sidelined nearly 10 months.

“It’s great to see Steve back,” forward Sam Vokes said. “He’s been a huge player for us over the last few years and I think we’ve missed him. He had some hard luck with that injury and to see him back playing in the Premier League is definitely good news.

“Robbie has done well for us in the past, as well, and had that terrible injury last Christmas time … those two lads will just add to the competition in the squad at the minute.”

Burnley have a win and a draw in their four matches at Turf Moor, but four of their six goals came in their waxing of Bournemouth last month.

The road team won both matches last season, with the Clarets pulling off a shock 3-2 scoreline over the 10-man Pensioners on the first match day to ruin the start of their title defence. Vokes had a first-half brace around a goal by Stephen Ward before Burnley saw off a furious late rally.

Chelsea returned the favour with a 2-1 victory at Turf Moor in April, with Victor Moses’ goal on 69 minutes proving to be decisive. They are 5-2-1 in Premier League matches versus the Clares.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Chelsea are prohibitive favourites to take all three points with 1/3 odds, and there are 15/4 odds on the teams leaving the Turf Moor pitch with a point apiece. The odds of Burnley claiming all three points and taking a huge step towards the middle of the table are 17/2.

Chelsea have 21/20 odds to win the match with more than 2.5 goals scored, which seems reasonable considering Man City put five past Hart at the Etihad. The Pensioners are also a 12/5 pick to win by either a 0-1 or 0-2 scoreline. Burnley have 16/1 odds to win on either side of the 2.5 goals threshold, while a 0-0 or 1-1 draw is listed at 19/4.

Despite his uncertain status, Hazard still leads the line for options among first goal-scorers at 16/5, nudging out Morata and Giroud at 7/2. Chelsea’s other wingers — Pedro and Willian — are joint-fourth at 11/2, with Barkley 15/2. Burnley forwards Vokes and Chris Wood are the top options to give the hosts a 1-0 lead, with both listed at 10/1.

Hazard is just above even money to score over the course of the 90 minutes at 21/20, closely trailed again by his centre-forwards at 6/5. Pedro and Willian are again paired together, this time at 9/5, while Barkley has 12/5 odds at putting one past Hart. Vokes edges out Wood for Burnley’s top any-time option at 3/1, just ahead of Wood’s 16/5 listing.

PREDICTION

If there was one match where Sarri could afford to at least not start Hazard as a precautionary measure, it would be this one. Whether it be Moses, Willian or even Callum Hudson-Odoi replacing the Belgium international, the Italian has made Chelsea a well-oiled machine currently good enough to at least compensate for Hazard’s absence as a one-off ahead of a busy stretch of schedule that includes a Carabao Cup tie and a trip to BATE.

Of course, Hazard is probably campaigning to be included in the XI given how much he has come to enjoy playing Sarri-ball, but the manager has the depth at Hazard’s position to be judicious and also the luxury of bringing a well-rested back four that into this match after they were given Thursday night off. The combination of Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz should be enough to see off the challenge of Vokes or potentially Chris Wood.

It also would not be surprising to see Barkley selected over Kovacic given the latter played against BATE.

Burnley continue to confound. There is almost this expectation every week that “this is the match they get it right,” then everyone is flummoxed by the result like the one that happened versus City. Granted, most teams outside the “Big Six” have the potential to be caught in the avalanche that is Manchester City’s offence on any given match day, but it was still surprising to see the Clarets deflate after that second goal, controversial or not.

Burnley had played better prior to that beatdown, but they will get no favours here from Chelsea. The Pensioners are an improved offensive team compared to last year’s two matches under predecessor Antonio Conte, and the sides who play systems — save their rout of Bournemouth — have given the Clarets trouble all season.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 0, Chelsea 2.

OTHER MATCH DAY 10 PREVIEWS:

Brighton and Hove Albion (3-2-4) vs. Wolverhampton (4-3-2)
Southampton (1-3-5) vs. Newcastle United (0-2-7)
Manchester United (4-2-3) vs. Everton (4-3-2)
Tottenham Hotspur (7-0-2) vs. Manchester City (7-2-0)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 9 — Manchester City (6-2-0) vs. Burnley (2-2-4)

An integral part of Manchester City’s rise to prominence in the Premier League over the past decade, goalkeeper Joe Hart faces his former team for the first time as Burnley have a tall challenge trying to kick-start their season Saturday against the reigning champions at the Etihad.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Hart made his Manchester City debut in 2006 as a 19-year-old shortly after his signing from League Two side Shrewsbury Town. After a series of loans around England, Hart claimed the No. 1 shirt for City in 2010 after making the England World Cup squad. He quickly commanded the space between the sticks, setting a club record with 29 shutouts in all competitions while winning the Premier League Golden Glove award.

Hart won the award for a second straight season in 2012, capped by Manchester City’s first Premier League title in club history. A second league title followed in 2014 and by the end of the 2014-15 season, he had garnered his fourth Golden Glove. All told, Hart has captured two Premier League titles, two League Cup titles and an FA Cup title in his 10 years manning City’s goal.

With the arrival and revolution of Pep Guardiola in 2016, Hart found himself a man without a goal to defend as the Spaniard wanted goalkeepers capable of playing the ball with their feet in addition to being a shot-stopper. When City reunited Guardiola with Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo that summer, the writing was on the wall as Hart began to look around Europe for a potential loan suitor.

Guardiola and Hart maintained a professional relationship throughout the process. His start in a second-leg Champions League qualifying tie versus Steaua Bucharest in which he served as City captain amounted to a testimonial, and Hart became the first English goalkeeper to sign with a Serie A team since the league’s inception in 1929 when he agreed to go on loan to Torino.

After a middling season in Italy, Hart moved to West Ham last season on long, but he lost the No. 1 job to Adrian during the latter part of last term. Hart and Burnley had a marriage of convenience in August – the Clarets lost No. 1 Nick Pope to a shoulder injury he is still recovering from – and signed Hart on a two-year deal.

The expectation is the City faithful will give Hart a warm reception, a sentiment echoed by Citizens defender Aymeric Laporte.

“He’s a very good goalkeeper and a very good person, too. He was well liked by all the players and I think the supporters of Manchester City love him because of his achievements over the years,” said Laporte, who trained with Hart last summer, to City’s official website. “He trained really well and was very professional during the summer, so it will be nice to see him again and I am sure he will get a fantastic reception when he walks out on Saturday.”

Hart and Guardiola maintained a very professional relationship in the process that led to his departure from Torino, and that professionalism appealed to current Burnley boss Sean Dyche as he scrambled to find a replacement for Pope, who had beaten out Hart for England’s No. 3 spot this summer in Russia.

“He has no point to prove,” Dyche told the BBC. “He just wants to get on with it. For keepers, sometimes what is in front of you helps. He wants a defensive unit he has faith with. I think there is a nice connection here. Possibly other clubs he didn’t find that connection.

“But a lot of credit goes to him for finding his way again.”

That defence has taken a few nicks as veteran left back Stephen Ward will be sidelined after undergoing knee surgery during the international break. James Tarkowski was unable to play for England due to an ankle injury suffered in Burnley’s 1-1 draw versus Huddersfield Town. The centre back – expected to play versus City — is looking forward to the potential return of midfielder Robbie Brady, who could feature in this match after missing the last 10 months with a knee injury, along with fellow playmaker Steven Defour.

“When we were flying at the start of the season those two were on fire,” Tarkowski told the Burnley Express. “It will be nice to get them back involved in the next couple of weeks. It’ll strengthen the squad a bit more and add competition for places throughout the team.”

Manchester City (6-2-0) come out of the break leading Liverpool and Chelsea on goal difference, and they could be taking a huge step closer to full strength for this match. Attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will have a late fitness test to determine his availability and could see his first playing time since suffering a knee injury at practice after City’s season-opening win over Arsenal.

The original target date for the Belgium international’s return was November 11, which is when the Manchester derby will take place against United, but De Bruyne made a late – albeit unsuccessful — push to be among the 18 for City’s 0-0 draw against Liverpool prior to the break.

With this match kicking off a busy stretch of schedule – City have seven games in the next 23 days – De Bruyne’s potential return could not come at a better time as it would allow Guardiola the chance to rest veteran playmaker David Silva, who has played 335 of the last 360 minutes in their last four contests.

Even without De Bruyne’s array of offensive skills – he had 12 goals and 20 assists in all competitions last season – Manchester City still have scored a league-best 21 goals while conceding a joint-Premier League low three. Sixty-five of their 174 shots have been on target, not including seven others that struck the woodwork.

Burnley halted a four-match skid to City in all competitions with a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor in the most recent meeting last term. The Clarets are 0-2-2 all-time at the Etihad in league play and were also overrun 4-1 there in the third round of the FA Cup in January.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, City are staggering favourites to stay unbeaten withS a win, getting 1/14 odds to claim all three points. Burnley have 12/1 odds to escape the Etihad with just one point and are 33/1 longshots to become the first Premier League team to win there since Manchester United delayed the inevitable of last season’s title.

The combination of De Bruyne’s potential return and Burnley’s somewhat tattered back line has led oddsmakers to believe there will be goals in this match. City have 3/10 odds to win this match with more than 2.5 goals, and they offer a 15/4 return with a 1-0 or 2-0 victory should Hart make things difficult for his former club.

The odds of a second straight low-scoring draw between the sides checks in with 14/1 odds, while it is almost worth putting a fiver down on a Burnley win just because — the Clarets have 70/1 odds to win with more than 2.5 goals and 90/1 for a 1-0 or 2-0 victory.

Sergio Aguero leads a parade of Manchester City options for the first goal of the game at 9/4 odds, edging Gabriel Jesus (3/1) and the trio of Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez (4/1). The Silvas — first David (7/1) then Bernardo (15/2) — follow those three, and De Bruyne make an appearance at 15/2. Chris Wood is the 12th-best overall option and top Burnley choice for an 0-1 scoreline at 18/1.

Aguero (4/11), Jesus (6/10), Sterling and Mahrez (10/11) are all better than even money to score over the course of the 90 minutes, with Sane an actual even money pick. De Bruyne moves up to a somewhat surprising 9/5 option, while Wood and Vokes headline the options for the Clarets at 9/2 joint-favourites.

PREDICTION

On the bright side, it will nice to see City supporters give Hart his due for helping raise the profile of the club with a pair of Premier League titles and five overall trophies during his decade between the sticks for the club. He was there Thursday for a quiet ceremony to mark his contributions as the club named a training pitch after him.

And then, the match will begin.

While Hart will be at the center of attention, the player who may command the most attention among his peers is Sterling. After finally ending his scoring drought at the international level with England during the break, that may be the last wall for him to hurdle to continue his progression to being an elite Premier League scorer. He has shown more and more flashes of it in the last season-plus and this could be his time to kick it into that next gear.

Then, of course, there is De Bruyne, who appears to have accelerated the powers of healing and his medical timetable to return to at least be available three weeks before the Manchester derby. The goals and assists numbers, though, only offer a glimpse of what the Belgium international offers City — De Bruyne is the players’ mind Guardiola wants on the pitch — to dare is to dream. He is the one who sees a passing angle almost everyone misses, and more importantly, he is the one with the audacity to try that pass.

Those are the type of plays that make the difference between occasional sluggish draw and grinding out a victory, moments City may need both in the Premier League and in Champions League this year as it appears more likely the Citizens will not canter to a second successive title.

Dyche will have Burnley set in their usual two banks of four, likely to leave Wood or Vokes by their lonesome with a lone attacking midfielder in support, though that will not happen often. While Burnley have claimed seven of their eight points in their last three league matches, four of those points came against two of the most offensively challenged clubs in the top flight in Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town.

Burnley have no such luxury for this contest, and in the end, City’s quality should shine through with a respectful pasting of Hart and the Clarets.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: MANCHESTER CITY 3, Burnley 0.

OTHER MATCH DAY 9 PREVIEWS:

Chelsea (6-2-0) vs. Manchester United (4-1-3)
West Ham United (2-1-5) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (6-0-2)
Wolverhampton (4-3-1) vs. Watford (4-1-3)
Arsenal (6-0-2) vs. Leicester City (4-0-4)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 6 Preview — Burnley (0-1-4) vs. Bournemouth (3-1-1)

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.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

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.

PREDICTION

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.

OTHER MATCH DAY 6 PREVIEWS:

Crystal Palace (2-0-3) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-4)
Manchester United (3-0-2) vs. Wolverhampton (2-2-1)
West Ham United (1-0-4) vs. Chelsea (5-0-0)
Arsenal (3-0-2) vs. Everton (1-3-1)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 3 Preview — Fulham (0-0-2) vs. Burnley (0-1-1)

Burnley are in danger of having their Europa League adventure come to an early end in addition to enduring a slow start domestically as they look to get on track Sunday at Craven Cottage versus Fulham.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The Clarets (0-1-1) have a challenging task next week at Turf Moor, where they will attempt to overturn a two-goal deficit to reach the group stages of the Europa League after suffering a 3-1 loss at Olympiakos in the first leg of the final qualifying round Thursday.

Chris Wood secured an important away goal from the spot just after the half-hour, but the Greek side scored twice in an 11-minute span of the second half. Burnley manager Sean Dyche was seething after a controversial handball on Ben Gibson resulted in both a penalty for the hosts and the defender’s second yellow card, leaving the Clarets with 10 men for the final half-hour.

“All I keep getting told is respect the referees and about conduct and the scenes I saw at half time around the referee were interesting, from all and sundry,” the gaffer said post-match. “Then things get changed in the second half and you are left scratching your head. Ben gets booked early doors and within a millisecond Kevin (Long) gets booked in the same incident.

“Then, miraculously, it seems to me, one of our players is sent off when he goes to block the ball. I’ve seen it and it hits Ben’s hip first and his hand second and that’s deemed a professional hand ball and he’s sent off. I’ve just seen it back on DVD, but hey ho, you live and learn.”

Gibson is ineligible for next week’s second leg but can play in this match. The loss continued a troubling trend for Burnley in which they started the second half flat. It was the second straight contest they conceded two goals in the first 15 minutes after halftime, something that contributed to their 3-1 loss to Watford at home last Sunday.

Keeper Tom Heaton, seeing his first action of the season after getting the nod over Joe Hart, likely did not do enough to stay between the sticks for this contest. The two will continue to vie for the No. 1 shirt as starter Nick Pope remains sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered in the first leg of the first-round Europa League tie versus Aberdeen.

Dyche also held out some regulars from domestic play. Defender Ben Mee did not make the trip while right back Matt Lowton and central midfielder Ashley Westwood stayed on the bench. Summer signing and striker Matej Vydra was included in the 18 for the first time but also did not see any action.

Fulham (0-0-2) are still looking for their first top-flight win since defeating Norwich City on April 12, 2014, before being relegated. The Cottagers were outclassed by Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at Wembley on Aug. 18, with Kieran Trippier’s goal on a free kick in the 74th minute snapping a deadlock and Harry Kane adding the insurance marker three minutes later for Spurs.

Aleksander Mitrovic had pulled Fulham level seven minutes after the re-start with a header from close range. The goal capped a sweeping 27-pass movement that showed what Slavisa Jokanovic’s team can be all about going forward, but the defence has yet to fully adjust to the faster tempo and higher quality of life in the Premier League.

“These two games were good tests,” summer signing and midfielder Jean Michael Seri told the club’s official website. “In the second game there were many positives to take, of course there are areas to work on also, but I think there are good elements for us all to build on, and I am not worried at all.”

Fulham’s back line could finally be at full strength as centre back Tim Ream is expected to be available for selection after missing the first two matches with a thigh injury. That could help lessen the burden on Fabri, who has recorded a Premier League-high 16 saves through the Whites’ first two matches.

The 16 saves also highlight the fact opponents are finding open spaces and shooting lanes — 20 of the 36 shots Fulham have conceded have been on target.

If there is one area where the Cottagers need a quick fix, it is seeing the first half through to the whistle. They have allowed goals in the final five minutes before halftime in each of their first two matches.

“I can be encouraged by certain things, but it is clear we need to improve during different parts of the game,” Jokanovic noted. “We were in trouble in the first 45 minutes. We had one great chance, but we didn’t finish it, and then they scored a goal at a bad moment for us.”

This is the first Premier League meeting between the teams since Fulham routed Burnley 3-0 at Craven Cottage on Feb. 9, 2010. The Clarets, however, did the double in the Championship in 2015-16 en route to winning promotion and are 5-2-1 in the last eight across all competitions.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Fulham are favourites to break through for their first win of the season at 19/20 odds, while Burnley are 3/1 underdogs. The teams splitting the points barely sneaks in between them at 9/4.

The expected result of a 1-1 draw is a slight favourite at 14/5 odds, closely trailed by a Fulham victory and under 2.5 goals (29/10). Punters who think Burnley can scrape out a win while staying under 2.5 goals can get 6/1 odds.

For first goal-scorers, Mitrovic leads the line at 7/2, followed by Burnley’s Wood at 9/2. Fulham sport the next two options as Kamara and Luciano Vietto are 11/2 odds, just ahead of Ashley Barnes at 6/1. Mitrovic has 7/5 odds to score his 14th goal in 20 matches with the Whites, and Wood is a 17/10 any-time scorer for the Clarets.

Lurking in the back of the pack is Sessegnon with 13/2 odds to make it 1-0 and 12/5 odds as an anytime goal-scorer.

PREDICTION

There is going to be an edge to this game as neither team wants to be winless after three league matches, more so for Fulham as they have mid-week duties in the Carabao Cup. Burnley also need to right themselves quickly or will be facing a fourth loss on the spin as they try to overturn that 1-3 deficit against Olympiakos to get to the Europa League group stages.

Both teams have problem spots — Fulham tend to shut off before halftime and Burnley do not seem to come out of the blocks well after it. The Clarets also play a similar well-drilled defensive style that compares to Crystal Palace, and Fulham did not fare all that well breaking down the Eagles.

While Dyche has said all the right things after Burnley’s two losses, it is also clear he feels aggrieved by the officiating in both matches. That’s his right, but it also serves as cover for an offence that had only one shot on target in Greece — Wood’s successful penalty — and put only three on frame against Watford. That has to improve.

Fulham have had their adjustment period to life in the Premier League, and the biggest thing they need to do is to extend moments of positive play to minutes and then extend those minutes to stretches. It happened in pockets against Tottenham, and while it is believable there may be a few more instances versus Burnley, a gritty draw seems the most likely outcome at Craven Cottage.

Predicted Final Score: Fulham 1, Burnley 1.

Other Match Day 3 previews:

Wolverhampton (0-1-1) vs. Manchester City (2-0-0)
Arsenal (0-0-2) vs. West Ham United (0-0-2)
Newcastle United (0-1-1) vs. Chelsea (2-0-0)
Manchester United (1-0-1) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (2-0-0)

2018-19 EPL Team-by-Team Previews: Burnley (July 31)

(Writer’s Note: This is the 14th of what will hopefully be 20 team previews in 20 days. Or at the very least, all 20 teams prior to the 2018-19 Premier League’s season-opener between Manchester United and Leicester City on August 10. Links to previous teams can be found at the bottom of the page)

BURNLEY CLARETS

Manager: Sean Dyche (Hire Date: Oct. 30, 2012)
Tenure Length: 2nd/20 in Premier League and 5th/92 in Top 4 leagues of English football
2017-18 Record: 14-12-12, 54 points, 7th in Premier League
2017-18 Goals scored: 36
2017-18 Goal Difference: minus-3
Number of Current Consecutive Seasons in Premier League: 3 (includes 2018-19)
Last Promotion: 2016
Last Relegation: 
2015
2017-18 Carabao Cup: Third-round loss on penalties (Leeds United)
2017-18 FA Cup: Third-round loss (Manchester City)

2017/18 REVIEW

Burnley’s season got off to a dream start as it ambushed title-holder Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, taking full advantage of a red card to Gary Cahill and scoring three goals before hanging on for a 3-2 victory. After a surprising home loss to West Bromwich Albion, the Clarets’ lone defeat in the next 10 matches came to Manchester City as they racked up 19 points and climbed to sixth in the table.

That stretch ended with a controversial 1-0 loss at Arsenal on Nov. 26 in which the Gunners received a stoppage-time penalty. Burnley, though, would claim points in four of its next five matches and reach its high-water mark of fifth in the table after a scoreless draw at Brighton on Dec. 16.

That stalemate, however, would also be the start of an 11-match run without a victory in which Burnley recorded six draws. One of those points was a 1-1 draw at home versus Manchester City, which had steamrolled the Clarets 4-1 in FA Cup play.

Burnley strengthened its position for play in Europe with five wins on the bounce, putting enough space between itself and both Everton and Leicester City for seventh place. Even with a season-ending five-match winless run (0-3-2) the Clarets finished five points clear of the Toffees for seventh and claimed the Europa League spot because Champions League-bound and reigning title-holder Manchester City won the Carabao Cup.

POTENTIAL STARTING XI

Burnley Lineup.png

Having the luxury of seeing Burnley play its first-leg Europa League qualifier versus Aberdeen, manager Sean Dyche has opted for a 4-1-4-1 set-up that will likely morph back into his customary 4-4-2 when Ashley Barnes is 100 percent.

That said, the blow of losing Pope — England’s No. 3 keeper — for at least three months is a huge one. While understudy Tom Heaton did not travel to Aberdeen because of a calf injury, he is expected to deputise less than a season removed from suffering the same injury that led to Pope becoming the No. 1 for the Clarets.

Anders Lindegaard, who conceded a penalty five minutes after he entered for Pope in last Thursday’s match, moves up to No. 2 until Pope is healthy enough to return.

Each member of the back four started at least 25 league matches in 2017-18, and in front of them, Jack Cork logged the maximum 3,420 minutes in league play. The central midfield pairing of Hendrick and Westwood will probably start the first few league matches until Robbie Brady and Steven Defour are 100 percent recovered from knee surgeries in December and January, respectively.

On the right flank, Johann Berg Gudmundsson will try to kick into a higher gear after totaling eight assists for the Clarets and helping Iceland to its first World Cup appearance this summer, and Aaron Lennon will try to use his pace on the left and finally net his first Burnley goal in league play after arriving from Everton in the January window.

Barnes, who has dealing with minor knocks throughout the summer though fully recovered from shoulder surgery after suffering a dislocation in the second-to-last match last term, scored six of his nine goals in Burnley’s final 11 league contests. He will partner with Chris Wood, who had a team-leading 10 goals, while Sam Vokes continues to be influential as the top forward off the bench after scoring the equaliser at Aberdeen last week.

THE NEW GUYS AND THE GONE GUYS

As is usually the case with Burnley, there was very little noticeable turnover in the summer via the transfer market. Midfielder Scott Arfield went to Rangers on a free transfer, though Pope’s injury has put the Clarets in the market for a keeper. Dyche has reportedly reached out to Southampton regarding Fraser Forster’s availability since he has slipped to No. 3 on the depth chart for the Saints.

The other big news the past few days is the possibility of veteran striker Peter Crouch coming to Turf Moor. The 37-year-old scored five goals in trying to help Stoke City escape the drop and has 108 Premier League goals spanning a career entering its 17th season.

There was talk of interest in Swansea City midfielder Sam Clucas earlier this month, but nothing has materialised as the transfer window is in its final fortnight. The Clarets also reportedly made a run at Clucas’ teammate Alfie Mawson, but it appears the centre back will join promoted Fulham.

THE GUY WORTH SEEING

Johann Berg Gudmundsson (RM)

The Iceland international made himself indispensable for the Clarets last season with eight assists in league play — five more than any other player on the team. Burnley’s dead-ball specialist, Gudmundsson acquitted himself well in Russia — starting two matches for the Strakarnir Okkar and was sorely missed in their 2-0 loss to Nigeria in which he was sidelined with a calf injury.

Gudmundsson will continue taking on a large share of the playmaking responsibilities while the rest of the expected starters get back to 100 percent health and be the key link between defence and attack for Burnley in the early stages of the season.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Even with Burnley’s success last season, oddsmakers still carry some speculation about the Clarets being able to sustain their momentum this term. They carry the sixth-shortest odds at Ladbrokes to be relegated at 7/2. They also carry 1/6 odds at finishing in the bottom half of the table, while a top-10 finish is listed at 10/3 odds.

There are longer odds at breaking the ceiling for a top-six finish in 2018/19 at 25/1 odds, and moving up from Europa League to Champions League play via a top-four spot checks in at 100/1 odds.

FIRST FOUR MATCHES/LAST FOUR MATCHES

Aug. 12 — Southampton (17th) A
Aug. 18 — Watford (14th) H
Aug. 25 — Fulham (N/A) A
Sept. 1 — Manchester United (2nd) A
——————-
April 20 — Chelsea (5th) A
April 27 — Manchester City (1st) H
May 4 — Everton (8th) A
May 12 — Arsenal (6th) H

OUTLOOK

The one million pound question surrounding Burnley is: How will it deal with actual expectations after its best league finish in 44 years? By qualifying for play in Europe for the first time since 1967, even if it fails to navigate all three two-legged qualifiers just to reach the group stages of Europa League proper, the Clarets are no longer this fuzzy, feel-good success story fighting to make it in the blood-and-thunder Premier League.

There is no longer a naivete to them — their identity as a tireless, hard-working, defence-first side who are lethal on the counter is well-known throughout England. Dyche’s men love to punch above their weight and know how to nick points — they had one win and three draws on the road against the top six clubs last season.

Still, for all that graft, Burnley desperately need more goals. The 36 netted in league play were the fewest of any team in the top half of the table and barely more than one-third the haul of champion Manchester City (106). Barnes and Wood are a solid tandem, and Vokes a viable option off the bench, but the Clarets need Lennon to poach some goals. Some of that will take care of itself when Brady adds to the playmaking potential,

And Burnley must also finally win a penalty either by hook or by crook to end a perplexing drought that now spans 43 matches in league play since Vokes converted from the spot at Goodison Park on April 15, 2017. In the grand scheme of things, this matters little to the club’s mindset on a match-to-match basis, but in a season of new challenges both home and abroad, every little advantage helps.

Losing Pope for an extended period of time is a huge blow, but Burnley does have a capable stand-in with Heaton, who had been the Clarets’ No. 1 for four seasons prior to 2017-18.

It is possible Burnley finish a few rungs lower just on the basis of its murderous run-in, though if things shake out the right way, those final two matches against Everton and Arsenal could serve as overall referendums at the end of a season that begins with high hopes.

PREDICTED FINISH

8th place

PREVIOUS TEAMS’ PREVIEWS

July 18 — Fulham                                         July 28 — Newcastle United
July 19 — Cardiff City                                  July 29 — Leicester City
July 20 — Wolverhampton                         July 30 — Everton
July 21 — Southampton                              July 31 — Burnley
July 22 — Huddersfield Town                   August 1 — Arsenal
July 23 — Brighton and Hove Albion      August 2 — Chelsea
July 24 — Watford                                       August 3 — Liverpool
July 25 — West Ham United                       August 4 — Tottenham Hotspur
July 26 — Bournemouth                             August 5 — Manchester United
July 27 — Crystal Palace                             August 6 — Manchester City