Premier League 17/18 Week 26: Burnley vs Manchester City – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
City make the short journey North to take on a Burnley side who remain the league’s closest contenders to the fabled top-six
12:30 GMT, Saturday 3rd February, Turf Moor (Burnley, England) Sky Sports
Burnley head into this match having ended their four successive defeats with a draw at Newcastle but without a win in their previous nine fixtures from all competitions.
Yet to win a home game against a side currently in the top half of the table, Sean Dyche must figure out a way to best the runaway leaders who have already beaten his team twice at the Etihad this season.
Pep Guardiola’s team approach this match with a mounting injury list but no let-up in the high standards they’ve set this term.
City’s win over West Brom took their goals tally to 101 from all competitions this season and claimed their 12th clean sheet in 25 league matches.
But while they sit 15 points clear at the top of the table once more, they are yet to win an away game in the league this calendar year.
Last Time Out
Newcastle United 1-1 Burnley (Premier League)
Burnley staged a late comeback to rescue a point from a gritty performance which improved as the game progressed.
The Clarets had to work their way into the game due to a fast start by Newcastle, however, once again the Burnley defence looked strong under pressure – admittedly from a poor Newcastle front-line.
Nick Pope made a string of good saves in the first half which included a weak penalty from Joselu after Phil Bardsley had fouled Newcastle’s left-wing debutant, Kenedy. Bardsley suffered a poor game against the Brazilian but the other defenders were able to cover his deficiencies throughout the evening.
After falling behind to a header which came from a second-half corner, Dyche changed his team to play 4-4-2 and Burnley dramatically improved. With the introduction of Sam Vokes from the bench to partner Ashley Barnes, The Clarets had more to aim for in attack and began creating chances of their own.
The pressure eventually told with only five minutes left on the clock as a Vokes shot was tipped onto the bar by Newcastle keeper Karl Darlow but for the rebound to cannon off the back of his head and into his own net.
Manchester City 3-0 West Bromwich Albion (Premier League)
On a night in which a Super blue moon lit up the night sky, the blue moon continued to rise over the Premier League table as City extended their lead back up to 15 points.
It was City who once again lit up the Premier League with slick football that produced 19 shots on the Baggies goal, 10 of which were on target.
New signing Aymeric Laporte was put straight into the action having only joined the club the previous day, however, he looked a good fit for Guardiola’s team. Although not heavily tested against a toothless Baggies attack, his distribution was impressive completing 95% of his 76 attempted passes.
City purred with efficiency on the ball throughout a match they thoroughly dominated. In a game which pitted top vs bottom, it highlighted exactly how large the disparity in quality is between opposing ends of the Premier League.
Dyche revealed he has another long-term injury problem with Steven Defour requiring surgery to correct a knee problem which could mean he misses the remainder of this season along with Robbie Brady (knee).
Tom Heaton (shoulder) is back in training although Nick Pope is expected to continue in goal, while Jonathan Walters and Chris Wood both miss out with knee injuries.
In better news, however, James Tarkowski should recover from his groin strain in time to start this weekend and Stephen Ward to should be fit with Matthew Lowton also expected to return to the team to replace Phil Bardsley and Aaron Lennon could get a first start after impressing from the bench.
Manchester City Lineup
David Silva is a doubt to start this weekend after taking a kick to a delicate part of his body during the first half on Wednesday while Benjamin Mendy (knee), Phil Foden (ankle), Fabian Delph (knee) Gabriel Jesus (knee) and Leroy Sané (ankle) all remain unavailable for Guardiola.
This could all mean a start for Ilkay Gündogan in midfield while the rest of the team remain unchanged from the side which started against West Brom.
Key Battle: Jack Cork (Burnley) vs Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
The central area of the pitch is likely to be where much of the action is as City will try to pass the ball through a congested Burnley midfield. Crucial to Burnley’s success will be Jack Cork who has had a hugely positive impact at Burnley since his summer transfer.
His influence has waned in recent weeks including a subdued display against Newcastle on Wednesday evening but he will need to rediscover his energy if Burnley are to have a chance of taking something from this weekend.
For any rival fans that were hoping De Bruyne’s purple patch would be short-lived, they will be bitterly disappointed.
The Belgian midfielder was again his side’s man-of-the-match on Wednesday as he produced yet another masterclass from the centre of the pitch.
On Wednesday he produced a goal, a no-look pass assist, a shot which hit the woodwork and then almost scored from just inside the West Brom half but for Ben Foster to scramble back to his line and tip the shot over the bar.
Another game, another collection of show-reel moments and he doesn’t look like slowing down yet.
One of the hallmarks of Sean Dyche’s team this season has been their ability to bring in peripheral members of the squad to cover injuries and suspensions.
In defence, this has been particularly evident with three of the back four against Newcastle not being in the starting lineup until Matthew Lowton’s injury at the end of November.
While Charlie Taylor continues to impress as left-back in place of Stephen Ward, both Bardsley and Kevin Long have seen their form slowly deteriorate over recent weeks.
Long was at least partly at fault for Newcastle’s goal as he lost his mark on Wednesday evening while Bardsley gave away a penalty and continually looked beleaguered in attempting to shackle Kenedy.
With Tarkowski expected to return to the starting eleven this weekend, there’s a hope that the centre-back pairing who excelled throughout the first half of this season can combine to stifle the league’s most potent attack.
Rough with the Smooth
Guardiola was left unamused by West Brom’s physical approach to the game as David Silva was forced from the field in the first half and two other heavy challenges were only deemed worthy of yellow cards.
This all followed a match when Cardiff City employed similar tactics during their FA Cup meeting to leave Sané out of action for the next six weeks.
While it’s technically within the realm of the rules, City have a habit of producing a lot of niggly fouls to disrupt play whenever they lose possession. Considering his side enjoyed 74% of the ball against the Baggies, both teams received 10 fouls each from the referee.
Furthermore, this does not include a thigh-high studs challenge by Fernandinho on Grzegorz Krychowiak which went unpunished and resulted in the Polish midfielder having to leave the field.
While there is no room for dangerous tackles in modern football, Guardiola’s recent comments regarding his player’s needing protection should not be expected to provide a preferential treatment for his team.
The English game has always carried a reputation for being a physically challenging contest and Guardiola is not the first manager to claim his star players are being victimised.
Prediction: Burnley 0-2 Manchester City
Burnley have not only found form hard to find recently as an increasing injury list takes its toll, they found City hard to control in October when they took a full-strength team to Manchester.
However, both previous encounters were closer than the respective three-goal margin suggests and the Clarets could also benefit from knowledge gained by Dyche from those two defeats.
City are looking good value for their commanding lead at the top of the league though and their fans can expect their team to record their 23rd league victory of the season.