Burnley have done it, they’ve defied the critics who said they lacked the quality required to stay in the Premier League and they’ve done it with games to spare. While they still have a chance of finishing as high up the table as 11th depending upon how other results around the league fall, Sean Dyche and his squad will have every right to celebrate at the final whistle irrespective of what the final score is in this game. It will however be a home game which has been the secret to Burnley’s success this season, albeit not a very well kept secret, and they will be eager to leave their loyal fans with one final victory to cheer before the season comes to a close.
West Ham meanwhile have become much harder to pin down as their season continues to fluctuate in an erratic style reminiscent of a damp firework. Sometimes they go off to spectacular results although they can’t be relied upon and could always leave those standing too close with the risk of getting burnt. While they overcome the form which saw them lose five consecutive games from the beginning of March, they have raised more questions than answers this season and look a lot further away from last year’s form than the current twenty-point gap which separates the two seasons at this stage of the campaign and are one of the teams eager to regroup over a summer which could define their future.
LAST TIME OUT
Bournemouth 2 – 1 BURNLEY
Uncharacteristically poor defending by Burnley prevented the Clarets from taking a point as the curse of the away game struck again for the Clarets. It took less than a minute for George Boyd to send a shot fizzing past the Cherries post and Bournemouth were quick to reply as a high tempo was set in the early stages of the game. This quickly subsided though as a lack of quality in attack from both teams came to the fore until a burst of speed from Junior Stanislas and a moment of indecision from the Burnley back four allowed the ex-Claret to race in on goal and slip the ball past Tom Heaton to open the scoring. With Burnley looking to make an instant response, Scott Arfield had two good chances for the Clarets before half time which sandwiched a half-volley from Sam Vokes but the Cherries held on to their advantage. A quieter start to the second half was then spoilt by Vokes in the 83rd minute when he equalised from 12 yards for Burnley but parity was short-lived as Joshua King restored Bournemouth’s lead in the 85th minute and claim victory for his side.
WEST HAM UNITED 0 – 4 Liverpool
The Hammers suffered a crushing defeat as Liverpool gave them a lesson in how to take their chances. West Ham looked to start the game brightly with Manuel Lanzini creating a good chance for Sam Byram but Joel Matip went one step closer in the 10th minute when he sent the ball crashing off the woodwork from a corner. While West Ham could feel aggrieved they didn’t receive a penalty in the 24th minute when Lanzini was fouled by Matip, Liverpool continued to create problems for the Hammers defence and Daniel Sturridge put the Reds ahead 10 minutes later although Andre Ayew should have equalised on the stroke of half time when he contrived to hit the post from two yards out before placing the rebound against the post again. Liverpool upped the tempo after the break though and after Gini Wijnaldum hit the bar in the 57th minute, West Ham failed to clear and Coutinho punished them before adding a second within three minutes. When Divock Origi added a fourth for Liverpool in the 75th minute, it was clear that there was no way back for West Ham as the Reds strolled through the remainder of the game.
Dean Marney (knee) and Joey Barton (ban) will both miss the remainder of the season while Ben Mee (shin) remains a major doubt and Michael Keane (knock) could also miss out again in what is potentially his final game for the Clarets.
West Ham United Lineup
The Hammers will be without Mark Noble (stomach) Winston Reid (knee) Michail Antonio (hamstring) Pedro Obiang (ankle) Cheikhou Kouyaté (wrist) Arthur Masuaku (knock) Andy Carroll (thigh) and Diafra Sakho (back) as the injury list bulges for the East London side.
The day of the underdog
Sean Dyche has masterminded his side to their first-ever season of Premiership survival after a season powered by grit and determination rather than relying on a single star or a hot-streak of wins to boost their points tally. This makes their achievements all the more impressive as they’ve been able to find a consistent level of performances which have guided them to safety and as the only team promoted from the Championship last season, it gives a further indication as to how tricky it has become for teams making the leap. This has also been further magnified by the size of their squad and the limited resources which this relatively small club possess ass Dyche has rallied his team behind achievable targets and a belief that they can beat anyone on their own patch of Turf.
Heaton vs Lanzini
With both Ben Mee and Michael Keane playing a huge part in the Clarets success this season, The player that has won the most praise has been the man stood behind them. Tom Heaton has made a number of world-class saves for his side this season and has enhanced his growing reputation dramatically as he currently leads the way with 139 saves made so far this season. Manuel Lanzini will be looking to tarnish his record though and has been one of the few dependable stars in the Hammers team in recent weeks as Bilic has found his attacking options reduced through injury. With the young Argentine having definitely benefited from the misfortune of others as he has been able to play his preferred position in the centre off the pitch, he looks to have a bright future ahead of him and will be a player for Burnley to keep a close watch over.
A rudderless boat
West Ham’s season began with a homesick whimper as they failed to adjust to their new home before they were hit with injuries and star players walking out on the club which provides some mitigating circumstances for Slaven Bilic’s sides underperformance. While he may have used up all the excuses available to him in East London, he looks set to retain his role for at least the beginning of next season but if he is to rekindle the success which they showed last season he will need to imprint a strong sense of direction on his squad. The disparity in his team’s performances between the battling win over Tottenham before a calamitous capitulation against Liverpool highlights their season in a microcosm and he could well learn from his opposite number this weekend when it comes to instilling a united sense of belief amongst his squad to provide consistency with his team.
PREDICTION: Burnley 0 – 0 West Ham United
With both sides struggling to score during their final run of games this season, there is little chance that this game will provide a large selection of highlights to anyone looking to make a highlights reel after the match. While Burnley hold home advantage going into the match and have only failed to score at Turf Moor on four occasions in the league, this is likely to be an attritional battle which neither side wants to lose rather than a game they try to win and I can see it slipping into a state of catatonia to provide the first goalless draw of the season in Burnley’s home record.
Will Burnley suffer their first goalless home draw of the season? Give us your prediction in the comments section below.