Europa League: Burnley vs Aberdeen – Lineups, Preview & Prediction
Burnley host Aberdeen at Turf Moor on Thursday as they look to make their way into the final stages of Europa League qualifying.
Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith
On Thursday, Burnley will host Scottish Premiership’s perennial second-place finishers Aberdeen to cement their place in the final round of Europa League qualifying.
The qualifying route for the Premier League side who finished in seventh place is a somewhat gruelling one. Entering at the second round, Burnley have to contend with Aberdeen before heading to play Istanbul Basaksehir in the final round.
Burnley themselves have the slight advantage in this one, having managed to pull back from a goal down in the first leg at the Pittodrie Stadium. However, the tie is far from over and Aberdeen will be hopeful that they can pull off something of an upset on Thursday night.
Were this to happen, Burnley fans might see it as a blessing in disguise. If they were to go through into the full competition, this would add ten games onto their season schedule, adding nine games onto the total that they played in domestic competitions last season. With the threat of a relegation never fully out of the minds of the Burnley fans, these ten games could be the difference between staying up or going down.
Last Time Out
Aberdeen 1-1 Burnley (Europa League qualifying)
If the first 20 minutes were anything to go by, Burnley will struggle to make waves in European football this season.
With last season’s Player of the Season Nick Pope going off with a suspected dislocated shoulder in the 14th minute, things went from bad to worse when James Tarkowski was adjudged to have fouled Sam Cosgrove in the box five minutes later. Gary Mackay-Steven made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Although Aberdeen enjoyed the better of the first half, Burnley did well to find their feet after the opening minutes and, by the time the second half came around, they were soon on top in the tie.
This added pressure told when, in the 80th minute, Sam Vokes got on the end of a Chris Wood header to flick the ball past two defenders before slotting home past Joe Lewis in the Aberdeen goal.
With Nick Pope out for a number of months with a dislocated shoulder, Tom Heaton will be given the chance to cement his place in the team.
Elsewhere, Sean Dyche will be without Robbie Brady (knee) and Steven Defour (Hyaline cartilage).
Derek McInnes is only missing Mark Reynolds who is recovering after an operation on a long-term knee problem.
However, with Aberdeen facing Rangers in their Scottish Premiership opening match on Sunday, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t go with his strongest lineup at Turf Moor.
Key Battle: Stephen Ward (Burnley) vs Gary Mackay-Steven (Aberdeen)
Aberdeen’s best player on Thursday, Gary Mackay-Steven will be the biggest threat that Burnley face in the return fixture.
Scorer of the penalty after James Tarkowski fouled Sam Cosgrove early in the first half, Mackay-Steven is a tricky wide forward who will look to get in behind the Burnley defence with his pace and guile.
Stephen Ward will be tasked with stymying Mackay-Steven’s threat.
The Northern Irish left-back has maintained his place in the Burnley starting XI despite the arrival of Charlie Taylor from Leeds United in January last season.
Conceding an early goal would put Burnley on the back foot. Ward, therefore, will play an important role on Thursday and he will need to call on all of his experience in what is an important game for his team.
Will a place in Europe hold Burnley back?
We saw it with Everton last season: despite the attractiveness of a European proposition, the reality is often more trouble than it is worth.
Aberdeen head to Turf Moor on Thursday with Burnley holding the upper hand in their Europa League qualification clash. After that, another two-legged fixture awaits. Should they come out on top, then Burnley will have added an extra six games to their season’s schedule.
Given that they only played 41 games last season, Burnley should be wary of the fact that they will have a guaranteed 50 games (including their Europa League qualification) to contend with this time around if they get into the competition.
How will they cope? Could the additional ten-plus games have a negative effect on them? Will the lack of transfer activity this summer come to haunt them?
How will Derek McInnes approach this one?
Although Graeme Shinnie has played down the expectations for Aberdeen’s opening weekend clash with Rangers, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the game is important.
For the last four seasons, the Dons have finished in second place, playing second fiddle to perennial league leaders Celtic.
This is a run of form they would like to maintain if possible and, although Steven Gerrard’s Rangers are still some way off the pace to topple Aberdeen, a win on Sunday for the Gers might have Aberdeen nervous at the outset.
As to how Derek McInnes approaches this week, then, it’s hard to say. Will he prioritise the league or European competition? We’ll have more of a sense of this when the starting lineup is released on Thursday.
Prediction: Burnley 1-0 Aberdeen
Having blown out the cobwebs at the Pittodrie Stadium last week, expect Burnley to come into this one with less of the lethargy that punctuated their last outing. In this case, the gulf in class (or at least the gulf in squad value) should pay off and it will surprising if Burnley don’t make it through to the next round of qualifying.
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