Burnley make the short trip south to the Etihad on Saturday to face Champions Manchester City in a game that all but the most blinkered Clarets’ supporters will see as a home banker.
City have taken 13 points from their last 15 – only dropping points in an away draw at Anfield, against the side who at this stage in the season look like their nearest rivals for the title.
Meanwhile, immediately before the international break, an out of sorts Burnley only scraped a draw at home to bottom of the table Huddersfield. In the process they only managed 30 per cent possession – and this against a team that is yet to win this season. Had Huddersfield not been so dismal in front of goal they would have had a deserved first victory.
The usually patient and passionately loyal Clarets faithful booed at the final whistle. This has prompted a degree of soul searching and there have been some rumours that all is not quite well behind the scenes at Turf Moor. This may be little more than the local rumour mill going into scurrilous overdrive during the international break. However, most Clarets would confess that they are somewhat concerned by the team’s form thus far this season – not least with Chelsea to visit Turf Moor, in the fixture following Saturday’s game against Manchester City.
Can you make a case for Burnley against City? Probably not – but it might not be the walkover that we saw when City demolished Cardiff. They’ve since been held at Anfield, but perhaps more pertinently, in recent games they struggled to overcome Newcastle – eventually winning 2-1; and didn’t look at their imperious best against Brighton in the 2-0 victory. Additionally, their preparation may have been disjointed given the international break and the air miles clocked up by their League of Nations squad. Also Guardiola has previously said that he finds Burnley’s very English style difficult to prepare against.
There are other hopeful signs for the Clarets – with Robbie Brady and Steven Defour both coming through 90 minutes of a behind closed doors friendly this week. The pairs’ imminent return will provide a much welcome injection of creativity – something the Clarets have seriously lacked so far this season. That said the City game may come too soon to see both involved, although it’s reasonable to expect that Defour at least will feature on the bench.
Anyway, that’s enough clutching at straws – I’m sure Burnley will try to make make it difficult for City, but that’s unlikely to be enough and I can’t see past a City victory and I’m predicting 2-0 scoreline.
I expect Burnley’s starting eleven to be Hart, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Lennon, Cork, Westwood, Gudmundsson, Hendrick, Vokes.