Burnley end their streak of consecutive away games this weekend with a trip to Sunderland. Having won just 1 point from their previous games at Hull, Swansea and Liverpool this is the prime opportunity to win away from home – probably our best shot all season.
I was very proud after the Liverpool game with the performance, and make no mistake if we can play like that against Sunderland we will win the game. As good as we were against Liverpool though we were terrible at Swansea and we just don’t know which Burnley will turn up.
A defeat would be very damaging. More to morale than anything else, but all of a sudden we would start to be sucked into the relegation scrap after being so far away for so long. It’s credit to how well we have done all season that we haven’t once been in the bottom 3, and since December time we just haven’t even been mentioned in discussions about relegation both among pundits and fans.
The job is far from done though and if anybody is aware of that it’s Sean Dyche and his players. We will be up for this game and having beaten Sunderland twice already this season and drawn away in the cup, Dyche will feel he knows how to get the better of Moyes’ team who sit bottom of the league.
The home game against Sunderland in the league was a walkover. I’ve honestly never seen a time at this level come to Turf Moor and offer so little. That will give us hope on our travels this weekend and I believe the bubble can be burst. A win would all but ensure we are plying our trade in the Premier League next year.
In terms of lineups, Gudmundsson remains an absentee and his injury is becoming more concerning as the weeks go by. I felt when he was injured at the back end of 2016 he was just finding his feet in the squad and to get injured in his return game against Lincoln will have really hurt his confidence. I am looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the team next season if he can’t have an impact again this year.
Steven Defour, however, will be ready for selection after completing 70 minutes in a friendly midweek against Edmonton FC. Defour has been a big miss but the signing of Barton has helped cushion the blow a little. If he is able to start or come off the bench and make an appearance it will be a lift to the players and fans – the sooner he is back in claret and blue on a regular basis the better.
As far as performances at Liverpool go, I don’t think any player can really expect to be dropped. I think we would consider a recall for Robbie Brady as he offers us something different with his set pieces and technique. I would prefer him to start on the left with Arfield on the right, however, Dyche loves his inverted wingers so that probably won’t happen.
Sunderland’s biggest threat is undoubtedly Jermain Defoe who will be looking to cement his reputation after being recalled to the England squad at 34 years old. Some say there is no point in bringing him in because of his age but I think he’s a superb player and he can help pass on some of his knowledge to the younger forwards in the team. If we can contain him then we will be well on our way to victory in my opinion.
The Mackems will see this as one of their last chances to pick up 3 points and we will have to contend with a stadium full of fans backing their side. An early goal would go some way to nullify that impact on the game.
I think it’s a game where both teams will score. I don’t fear the Sunderland defence one bit and neither will Andre Gray who scored a hat-trick in the league meeting at the Turf. I think John O’Shea is still having nightmares about it.
A point would be fine but a win would be something very special and set us up for another season in the top flight. Come on you Clarets!
My prediction: Sunderland 1-2 Burnley