Burnley return to Turf Moor this Sunday in the early afternoon fixture against Chelsea following last weekend’s drubbing at the hands of Manchester City.
If Burnley had ever needed a winnable game, this weekend would be an ideal opportunity after the 5-0 scoreline that Clarets had to endure last week. However, fewer fixtures are likely to be more difficult than Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea, who are clearly one of this season’s title contenders.
There’s been a distinct feeling of injustice this week, after both Kompany and Sane ought to have seen red for City. It compares interestingly with last season’s away fixture against this weekend’s opponents Chelsea, when referee Craig Pawson – in stark contrast to Jon Moss, last weekend’s ref – didn’t bottle an early decision and sent off Cahill, then late in the game, also sent off Cesc Fabregas. Interestingly, this weekend’s ref is a certain Mr. Pawson!
Chelsea dropped points at home to Manchester United last week and it could have been worse had they not equalised in the 96th minute. The game ended in controversy with a touchline spat involving United boss Mourinho, and Chelsea coach Marco Ianni, whose over exuberant celebrations in front of the United bench incensed the not-so-happy one. Is it wrong or churlish to hope that if Chelsea score at Turf Moor, Ianni tries to do the same thing in front of Sean Dyche – and thereby becomes the first coach to enter into a low level orbit of the earth?
That aside, it’s difficult to pick holes in Chelsea this season – they’ve been excellent and look like they’ll be pushing hard alongside Liverpool to challenge City for the title. They are far, far from a one man team, but what can you say about Eden Hazard? He’s certainly in that small group of players – alongside the likes of Modric, De Bruyne, Suarez and a few others you could debate – that fall just behind the top two in the world. On his day, he’s just about unplayable.
On one level it’s a terrifying prospect, but conversely seeing this quality of player in a little corner of East Lancashire is something that many Clarets of a certain vintage never thought they’d see again. It’s a privilege to see them grace the hallowed Turf – and it’s even better to see them get roughed up a bit and leave with their tales between their legs.
Will this happen this weekend? It’s doubtful! However, Hazard was withdrawn from Chelsea’s squad to play in the Europa League game with Belarusian champions BATE Borisov because of a back injury. It’s almost certainly a ruse and he’ll be back and fighting fit on Sunday. Similarly I’d expect Sarri to deploy some degree of squad rotation, meaning that his side are unlikely to be fatigued ahead of the trip North.
From a Burnley perspective, they’ve had a week to lick their wounds following the horror-show at City. It was unjust and the scoreline didn’t reflect the game, but Burnley need to move on and quickly. One possibility is that Robbie Brady may feature – perhaps on the bench; and Steven Defour will once again be in contention, which is excellent news from a Clarets’ perspective. Whether or not it has an impact on the outcome of this game, I’m not so sure, but in terms of forthcoming games it will give Burnley some of the creativity that they’ve clearly lacked in the early part of the season.
Will Burnley have enough to overcome Chelsea? I suspect not, but I’d expect a reaction from last week, so it should be a tighter game. I’m going for a creditable performance but a 1-2 home defeat and I expect Burnley to line up as follows: Hart, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Lennon, Defour, Cork, Gudmundsson, Hendrick, Vokes.