Crystal Palace face a Burnley side who have struggled with their away form. Here's Jack Pierce with his look ahead.
With just four games left of their season, now is perhaps the edgiest a Burnley fan will have been feeling all season.
Having sat comfortably in mid table all season, courtesy of picking up just four points in April and those around them, ourselves obviously included, picking up a fair few points has put The Clarets 16th and five points (call it six with the goal difference) above Swansea who look on enviously from 18th position.
Avoiding defeat on Saturday will go a long way for Sean Dyche and his side's efforts to retain Premier League status for a second season for the first time but the same goes for our league status too so it's all to play for come Saturday evening. I guess that's why it's been moved for TV!
Dyche has been mentioned in conversations regarding managers of the season throughout this campaign such has been the relative ease that his side have picked up wins (all at home) and maintained a steady points tally. The voting for such awards often happens way before we start the final approach of the season. If, and it's a big if given Antonio Conte is likely to win most manager awards this season, Dyche was to pick one up having seen his side relegated, the gloss of any award win will certainly be wiped away immediately.
After their visit to SE25, Burnley host West Brom and West Ham and head to the coast to visit Bournemouth in between those home matches. Such a trio of fixtures should offer opportunity for further points to be collected so even with a defeat on Saturday, Burnley will have the chance to draw themselves from the threat of Championship football next season. They will be heavily reliant on the two home games having been frugal on the road this season. Just THREE points have been picked up on their travels this season and one of those was only down to one of the individual performances of the season by captain and keeper, Tom Heaton, at Old Trafford; the others at pitiful Sunderland and struggling Hull. That said, their home form has given them a real chance of staying up which would be an achievement in itself.
As we found to our collective dismay in November, Turf Moor has become very difficult to take points from and having recovered from being two goals down in the dying minutes, we somehow managed to throw a valuable point away using brash and foolhardy tactics which left us valuable for the counter attack. To rub salt into the proverbial wound, it was Ashley Barnes, he being ex-Brighton, who found the winner deep into added on time.
Regardless of whether they remain to a top flight club or not, one man who won’t be with them next season is Michael Keane. Keane has impressed greatly this season but I am somewhat surprised by the bunfight that is anticipated for his signature. Everton, Liverpool, both Manchester clubs and Chelsea have all been linked with a move for the former Old Trafford apprentice and a fee for Keane’s services could exceed £30 million given the interest in the player. It’s one of the football’s worst kept secrets that Keane has the blessing of his club to leave come the end of this campaign which would suggest Burnley have plans in place to counter the centre back’s departure.
Another who may be off is Andre Gray, Burnley’s top goal scorer this season. There were high hopes for Gray to score more than eight league goals this season but despite the fairly low return in terms of goals, Gray’s rumoured to be on the shopping list of some of the league’s bigger clubs, Spurs among them. Gray might be tempted to return south but it’s unlikely Dyche would be too content to see both his central defensive stalwart and primary goal threat leave before the start of next season.
Joey Barton is another that Dyche will be unable to call upon next season. Excessive or about right, his 18 month ban for betting when he shouldn’t have been rules him out of all of next season and effectively ends his Burnley career. Whether he’s able to find employment after the ban is completed remains to be seen; all I know is that I bet… no, I’ll start again… all I know is that he probably regrets his extra curricular activities despite his fairly well worded retort after his ban was announced on Wednesday.
Midweek’s defeat against Tottenham was a missed opportunity to secure our top flight status but after the April we’ve had, there wasn’t any grumbling from the faithful.
This is a big, big game for both clubs but just imagine how you’d be feeling before this encounter if we hadn’t taken nine points from Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.