13:30 KO (BST); Sunday 10th September; Turf Moor (Burnley, England) Sky Sports
Having taken four points from last season’s top two, Burnley have not only surprised many people, they’ve also achieved this feat away from home.
With ten home wins providing the backbone of their season last year, Burnley ironically lost their first game at Turf Moor this season.
Sean Dyche has added to his squad this summer and at a first glance, he looks to have adequately replaced the departures of Michael Keane and Andre Gray, however, situations can quickly change in the Premier League.
Change is something which Frank de Boer and Palace fans are craving. Palace’s poor run goes much deeper than their three straight defeats so far this term, having lost seven of their previous eight Premier League fixtures and failing to score in each of these defeats.
With the new system being used at Palace taking much of the brunt of media criticism, it still seems far too soon to pass judgement on de Boer’s impact in South London. A failure to take any points from Burnley will invariably draw more blood from this story, making this a pivotal game for both him and the Eagles.
Last time out
Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 1 BURNLEY
Burnley’s first appearance at Wembley ended with glory as they held last year’s second-placed team to a draw. It was new signing Chris Wood who grabbed the headlines when his late goal denied Tottenham victory at Wembley, yet the win was only possible because of the platform which the Clarets defence had built up through the match.
Ben Mee and James Tarkowski deserve as much of the credit for the win as any other player wearing Claret and blue on the pitch. Making six interceptions and 17 clearances between them, they were an effective shield in front of Tom Heaton’s goal.
While the pair are not particularly noted for their man-on-man defending against skilful players, they showed they were more than a match for almost everything Spurs threw at them.
CRYSTAL PALACE 0 – 2 Swansea City
In falling to a third consecutive defeat, the Eagles were made to suffer because of a lifeless first-half performance. Frank de Boer commented after the game that his team had lacked courage, however, confidence appears to be the main ingredient missing from his current recipe.
Whether the Dutch manager has the required personality to inspire his players in future games remains to be seen.
With so many of the starting XI looking bereft of invention, it was left to a substitute to provide a spark for Palace. Despite only making his first appearance for Palace this season in the 58th minute, Yohan Cabaye showed a creativity which has been sorely missing this season.
In just over half an hour, Cabaye played a key pass and made an interception to show his worth at both ends of the pitch and must surely now start in their next fixture.
Dean Marney (knee) will not be available, while there is a small doubt surrounding the fitness of Jeff Hendrick (thigh) after he missed both of the recent World Cup Qualification matches for the Republic of Ireland.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Mamadou Sakho is not expected to start for the Eagles following his transfer from Liverpool due to a lack of match fitness, while Wilfried Zaha (knee), Pape Souaré (fitness) and Connor Wickham (knee) will also miss out.
De Boer has stated he expects the rest of his squad to be fit in time for Sunday’s kick-off, meaning that the knocks suffered by James Tomkins, Jairo Riedewald and Yohan Cabaye are not as serious as first feared.
Key Battle: Sam Vokes vs Christian Benteke
In a game likely to be short of goals, a single strike from either forward could well decide the outcome of the match. With Sam Vokes in a rich vein of form, the Welshman should retain his place in the side ahead of Chris Wood despite the newcomer scoring on his debut and claiming a hat-trick for New Zealand.
Although Dyche may resort to a 4-4-2 formation to accommodate both, he appears set to use a five-man midfield this season, a tactic which has so far proved fruitful.
With Palace yet to score in the league this season, Benteke appears to be one of the biggest losers in de Boer’s new style of play.
While the wingers are still providing plenty of crosses for the Belgian, 22 in the game against Swansea, Benteke has found himself on the periphery of the game.
With only one of his four shots on target from the first three fixtures, Benteke will need to improve his accuracy as much as he needs to become more involved in the action.
A depth of presence
Having brought seven new faces into the club this summer, there is a real depth to Burnley’s playing squad now. With more options to choose from in the dressing room than at any other point in Burnley’s history, they also have a significant number of players with strong personalities.
While Dyche himself is no shrinking violet, he views having plenty of leaders on the pitch as vital to his footballing philosophy. A dogged performance from his team has become a hallmark of Burnley’s survival in the Premier League and it’s his players’ willingness to stand up and be counted which has helped nurture this.
With Palace appearing to lack this quality, it could well prove to be key in Burnley’s fortunes in this match once again.
Both teams place a large emphasis on their wing play and these players could hold the key to their team’s success. While Palace are without Zaha again for this match, Andros Townsend and Ruben Loftus-Cheek should both be fit and available for de Boer from the start.
While Loftus-Cheek has looked impressive in his limited games for the Eagles, Townsend has yet to hit the heights of last season and will need to improve his game to help his side’s chances.
For the home team, Robbie Brady has looked like the most improved player under Dyche this year. Having been slowly eased into the first team since his arrival from Norwich in a £13m deal, the Irishman is finally growing into his promised potential.
On the right flank, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson has been an ever-present for the Clarets this season after limited opportunities last year.
While he is yet to play over 80 minutes for the Clarets this season, he is already showing signs that his slow introduction into the first team could also produce a reward worthy of the wait.
PREDICTION: Burnley 1 – 0 Crystal Palace
After a long break to re-assess their situation and plan a way out of their current mire, Palace should be expected to produce a much-improved display in this fixture than they’ve managed so far this season.
Burnley’s cohesion and self-belief will play no small part in this though, and I can see them having enough to edge a low-scoring match.
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