Burnley v Crystal Palace
Venue: Turf Moor
Referee: Lee Probert
Burnley will be looking to bounce back from their defeat at Newcastle when they welcome Crystal Palace to Turf Moor on Saturday afternoon.
This disappointing result at Newcastle was their first loss in the league since a defeat to Everton on the 26th December. This fine run of form has seen Burnley climb out the relegation zone and up into 15th, five points clear of the drop.
They were brought rather starkly back down to earth against Newcastle in the midweek fixtures. While the first goal they conceded was one where Heaton and the defence knew they could do nothing about, the second goal, from Longstaff, showed that Burnley’s defensive turnaround is not quite complete.
Dyche will be hoping that this result was nothing more than a blip as he prepares to face a confident Crystal Palace side.
The defeat against Manchester United on Wednesday was Palace’s first in five games. They find themselves above Burnley in the table on goal difference alone.
Roy Hodgson may take concern at how easily his players allowed Manchester United to beat them. It was a fairly lacklustre performance but Palace do have a rotten record against United – they have never beaten them in the Premier League. Hodgson will hope this performance was not indicative of wider problems.
A win for either team should cement their status in the Premier League next season. Whilst it is unlikely that either of the two will go down now, they cannot afford to show a shred of complacency if they don’t want to risk being dragged in to the relegation battle.
Sean Dyche has no new injury concerns going into this game. Steven Defour is still out with a recurring calf injury for which he is seeking a second opinion for, if reports are to be believed.
Ashley Westwood missed the Newcastle game through illness but should be available, while Jonathan Walters and Aaron Lennon both remain long-term absentees.
Dyche has been well known for his reliance on a small, core group of players with minimal emphasis on rotation. One player which has forced himself into Dyche’s plans is the teenage midfielder, Dwight McNeil. He has made 11 league appearances this season with one goal to his name. He is still only 19 and will have to be managed carefully to ensure that he does not burn out, but it seems that Dyche has a very special talent on his hands.
One issue which Burnley have is their lack of goals. Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes have accounted for 15 of their 31 league goals this season. Players in midfield such as Gudmundsson, Jeff Hendrick and Jack Cork need to start chipping in more to support their strikers.
Mamadou Sakho may be available for Hodgson after picking up a knock against Leicester last week. Hodgson revealed that he chose not to risk him against Manchester United so he may be in contention to come back for this fixture.
Pape Souare is still unavailable after sustaining a shoulder injury in early January.
Hodgson will be sweating on the fitness of Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The right-back has been arguably the best in his position in the league this season and is certainly a prodigious talent. He was ruled out of the Leicester match with a hamstring injury which Hodgson seemed to imply is not too serious. He may come back for this match but Hodgson will be wary not to risk exacerbating the injury.
Palace fans were buoyed by the loan signing of Michy Batshuayi from Chelsea in the January window. They have long suffered through the striking malaise of Christian Benteke and Jordan Ayew, whilst Wilfred Zaha single-handedly carries the team.
Batshuayi has had a very up and down career, which has not been helped by persistent injury problems. The Palace faithful will be hoping he can show the form he displayed when at Borussia Dortmund a year ago and add to the one Premier League goal he already has.
Predicted Starting XIs:
Burnley (4-4-2): Heaton; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson, Westwood, Cork, McNeil; Wood, Barnes
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Guaita; Ward, Tomkins, Kelly, Van Aanholt; McArthur, Milivojevic, Schlupp; Townsend, Batshuayi, Zaha
Score Prediction: Burnley 2 Crystal Palace 1
A hard one to call. Both teams will be looking to bounce back from disappointing results. Whilst Palace have a fairly good away record this season, having beaten the likes of Manchester City, Leicester, Fulham and Huddersfield, Burnley should be too savvy this time round.
Dyche will not accept another performance like the one against Newcastle so do not be surprised to see a more conservative Burnley performance.