Premier League 17/18 Week 29: Burnley vs Everton – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The battle for seventh heats up on Saturday lunchtime with the Toffees looking to bring their poor away record to an end at Turf Moor.
12:30 GMT, Saturday 3rd March, Turf Moor (Burnley, England) Sky Sports
The Clarets may still be in seventh position. However, they’re without a win in 11 league games and have lost 5 of those fixtures.
A win this weekend will see them hit the 40-point mark and put them in pole position for a seventh-placed finish which looks likely to return a place in Europe next season.
To do that, they’ll have to do the double over Everton which is something they’ve failed to achieve since they won the top-flight title in 1960.
Everton also come into this game with worse form than they would have expected to find themselves.
The Toffees may have won two of their last four league games. However, they’ve only collected nine points from the last 30 which were available.
Worse still, they’ve only won one of their 14 away fixtures so far in the league and managed two clean sheets from those games.
With pressure mounting on Sam Allardyce to prove he can lead Everton beyond the end of this season, improving this record with a win over their rivals is exactly the result he now needs.
Last Time Out
Burnley 1-1 Southampton (Premier League)
It felt like two points lost for the Clarets as they conceded a goal in the final minute after a stroke of bad luck. While the match itself had few highlights to excite a neutral observer, the Clarets enjoyed the better of the game for the majority of the match.
There was a welcome return for Stephen Ward at left-back with the defender managing to play for the full 90 minutes in his first match since mid-December. Alongside him, Ben Mee was Burnley’s stand-out player as he marshalled a well-drilled defence in front of both the Saints attack and the watching England manager who was in the stands.
At the opposite end of the field, Ashley Barnes put in another fully-determined display, summed up by his goal which came from him literally throwing himself at the ball. He was also unlucky to not have been awarded a penalty.
However, worse luck came at the very end when referee Bobby Madley inadvertently caused Ashley Westwood to lose possession only for the Saints to score from the resulting attack and salvage a draw.
Watford 1-0 Everton (Premier League)
Everton came out second-best in a match which was notable for a distinct lack of quality on display from both sides. Again playing with a lone striker at the top of the pitch, Everton failed to create openings for either Oumar Niasse or Cenk Tosun who replaced him with around half an hour remaining.
While Wayne Rooney was again used in a deeper midfield role and despite experienced players such as Gylfi Sigurðsson, Theo Walcott and Idrissa Gueye also in midfield, errant passing continuously ruined the Toffees building their way into the game.
While Allardyce pinned the result on his team’s lack of composure in front of goal, Everton finished the match with less possession and around half as many shots on goal.
With the game eventually decided by a Troy Deeney goal after he slipped the marking of Ashley Williams, the Everton manager was also left to rue his side’s inability to defend for the full 90 minutes.
Steven Defour (knee), Robbie Brady (knee) and Jonathan Walters (knee) will all be missing once more while Scott Arfield (calf) is also expected to remain sidelined this weekend.
Tom Heaton (shoulder) is nearing his comeback now he’s in full training and has featured for the under-23s but is unlikely to make his way back into the team this weekend.
There’s better news for both James Tarkowski and Chris Wood who could feature after recovering from groin and knee injuries respectively.
Allardyce faces the same problems as last week with Eliaquim Mangala (knee), Phil Jagielka (knock), Seamus Coleman (muscular), Leighton Baines (calf), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee) and James McCarthy (leg) all unexpected to be fit for Saturday’s match.
This could see him begin with the same starting eleven although the performance at Watford means this is far from a certainty, especially in attack.
Key Battle: Chris Wood (Burnley) vs Michael Keane (Everton)
While he has not played since Christmas, Chris Wood made the Burnley bench last weekend as is expected to return to the starting lineup this weekend.
His absence from the team has coincided with the Clarets drastic drop in form and Sean Dyche will be hoping his return can also signal a change.
Despite only having four league goals to his name, Wood provides an imposing presence at the top of the pitch for his team.
Looking to stifle his impact will be a former Claret in the centre of the Toffees defence. Keane has not made the impact on Merseyside many expected following his £30 million summer move.
The home supporters will be well aware of what he can offer though and if he can rekindle his old form on his old stomping ground, Everton will have at least half a solution to their biggest problem of this season.
In need of a change
Last weekend Burnley had looked the better team for most of the game against the Saints, yet the late goal by Southampton ensured they finished the match with only a single point.
The previous game at home to Swansea also saw the Clarets concede a late goal with Ki Sung-Yueng scoring for the Swans in the 81st-minute.
Another factor which these two games both shared in common was the lack of any substitutions made by Sean Dyche. With first-team players of every major position through the team available on the bench, Dyche chose to stick with his side on both occasions rather than introduce fresh legs into the game.
As a manager who firmly believes in consistency, Burnley have fielded the most unchanged lineups (8) and the fewest number of substitutions (average 1 per game) of any side in the Premier League.
These late goals, however, do raise the question of whether Dyche is currently pushing this belief too far at the expense of results.
Running out of excuses
Having blamed Everton’s performance against Watford on their lack of a clinical striker, Allardyce has again moved to shift responsibility of Everton’s poor form from his own shoulder’s.
While Oumar Niasse did fluff his line on more than one occasion during his hour on the pitch, Tosun, his replacement, failed to find any clear openings during the final third of the match.
The Turkish striker was Big Sam’s own choice, claiming Tosun to currently be the best striker in the world for under £30 million. His lack of opportunities was restricted to a battling header but this was more to do with the poor supply and service he received rather than anything of his own doing.
To further add complications to Allardyce’s argument, Rooney was named as this season’s second most efficient striker earlier this week.
Having taken 24.1% of his chances in the league this season, only Javier Hernandez (26.9%) has more, yet Big Sam has failed to get the most from the former England captain.
Prediction: Burnley 2-0 Everton
While the Clarets have yet to win or score more than a single goal in a match in any competition during 2018, this could be about to change this weekend.
Everton have struggled to play well against well-organised teams lately and Dyche will see motivate his players to protect their league position from the club currently a single win behind them in the table.