Premier League 17/18: Burnley vs Southampton – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Clarets host the Saints with both teams struggling for form and in need of a return to winning ways.
15:00 GMT, Saturday 24th February, Turf Moor (Burnley, England)
Sitting seventh in the table but rock-bottom of the current (eight matches) form guide, Burnley presently have two faces in the Premier League.
While the Clarets were flying high in 6th in mid-December, they have since found victories hard to come by with only five points collected from the following ten matches.
However, the Saints are currently facing a bigger problem with only one win coming from their previous fourteen league games.
They may have completed a league and cup double over West Brom this month but they remain trapped in the relegation zone with Mauricio Pellegrino’s job under a continuing cloud of uncertainty.
While Sean Dyche has no such problems having recently signed an extended contract with the Claret’s, he has yet to deliver a win since putting pen to paper.
Victory this weekend would almost guarantee his side play Premier League football next season. However, this could be the incentive which the Saints need to win this game as their need is far greater despite being a side many believe are “too good” to go down.
Last Time Out
Swansea City 1-0 Burnley (Premier League)
Burnley fans were subject to yet another attritional display in which their toothless endeavours were thwarted by a late surge from the Swans.
There was little to separate these two sides for long periods of the match, although, the first half itself provided very little entertainment for those watching on.
Burnley often ceded possession to the home side but were given little to work with as an attacking force due to Swansea’s slow and methodical approach play.
It was the introduction of the Swansea substitutes which changed the game’s complexion. With Burnley tiring after a lethargic performance, the lack of options on the Claret’s bench proved the key difference, although the return to action of Nahki Wells was a small positive for Dyche to take out of this defeat.
West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Southampton (FA Cup)
Having just dropped below the relegation line after a long courtship with the bottom of the table, the Saints found some respite from their problems in the cup.
They were duly compensated for a bright start when Wesley Hoedt scrambled home an 11th-minute corner, a goal which proved to give them much belief throughout the rest of the match.
While their dominance on the game faded during the second half, Dusan Tadic doubled their advantage with a beautifully chipped finish ten minutes after the break.
West Brom replied almost instantly to set up a tense finish to the game. However, the Saints looked strong and organised at the back and ultimately proved too good for the struggling Baggies.
Dyche still has a host of injury concerns with Phil Bardsley (knock), Steven Defour (knee), Robbie Brady (knee) and Jonathan Walters (knee) all missing for the Clarets.
In addition, James Tarkowski (groin), Chris Wood (knee) and Scott Arfield (calf) will require late fitness tests while Tom Heaton is not yet ready to make his return following a shoulder injury which has seen him miss most of this season.
This could see an unchanged lineup from the team beaten at Swansea. However, Ashley Westwood may be recalled in place of one of the forwards or a return to full fitness of one of the doubtful players could see changes made.
Maya Yoshida (knee), Steven Davis (knock), Shane Long (hamstring) and Charlie Austin (hamstring) will all miss out for Pellegrino’s side, while Sofiane Boufal is also a doubt having picked up a knock.
This should see few changes to the side which defeated the Baggies last weekend. However, Oriol Romeu should return to partner Mario Lemina in central midfield.
Key Battle: Kevin Long (Burnley) vs Wesley Hoedt (Southampton)
With this game likely to be decided by a fine margin, respective defences will play a key part in their team’s chances.
Despite slipping a late goal against Swansea to condemn them to defeat, the Claret’s defence were once more the team’s strongest point in that match.
Kevin Long has continued to shine in place of the injured James Tarkowski and looks set to resume this role again on Saturday.
His man-of-the-match showing against the Swan’s made him unlucky to be on the losing team but a similar display this weekend should be enough to prevent lightening striking twice in a row.
Similar to Burnley, the Saints have failed to set the goal-scoring charts alight this season. In defence, the new Dutch centre-back has fitted almost seamlessly into the void left behind by compatriot and ex-Southampton captain Virgil van Dijk.
A goal last weekend showed that Hoedt can be a strong presence at both ends of the pitch and he will look to continue his good form this weekend with another match-winning display.
Despite a run of ten league matches (D5, L5) without victory, Burnley still find themselves clinging to seventh-position in the Premier League table.
The competition to occupy this spot has warmed up with Leicester and Everton now both within striking distance, however, the Clarets have not been punished by their rivals for a dip in form.
While this can be seen as a lack of quality in the chasing pack who trail the top-six teams in the league, it also proves just how well the Clarets performed in the opening months of this season.
Having watched other sides plummet after making similar promising moves, Burnley must look to learn the lesson left by the likes of West Brom and build once again after steadily growing into this division.
Sum of all parts
Southampton have, on paper, a team bristling with quality. However, on the pitch it’s proved a very different scenario this season.
A lack of goals has been commonly cited as the Saints biggest weakness but, with only five clean sheets from their 27 league games, defence has also been an issue for them.
This lack of cohesion between a team perceived to contain enough talent has left the blame squarely in the lap of Pellegrino.
The fact that Claude Puel faced similar criticism at this stage last season suggests that the problem runs far deeper through this club than simply ending at the manager’s door.
Prediction: Burnley 2-1 Southampton
While both teams have shown flashes of quality in recent weeks, both are also badly in need of a confidence-boost which a win this weekend could provide.
A lack of goals seems a certainty given the lack of firepower shown by both teams. However, there could be a hidden surprise in this game due to the Saints desperation for points, although Burnley should come out of this contest on top.