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1516 burnley turf moor 04In the four games before Sean Dyche became manager, Burnley twice conceded four goals, at Crystal Palace and Cardiff, and that’s the total number of times we’ve conceded as many as that in 175 league games since he took over with both of them coming at West Brom.

Back in October 2014, with a number of players missing with injury, we were beaten 4-0 and it was the same score last Monday as the Sky cameras covered what was undoubtedly our worst performance for some considerable time.

That game, as Dyche would say, is parked now. Last time, our next game was at Leicester where Michael Kightly and Ross Wallace scored in a 2-2 draw, this time we’ve got one of the toughest games imaginable with Manchester City our opponents at home.

I think, quite simply, if we play badly in any game at Premier League level we will almost certainly be beaten. We are a side that really does have to be on its top form to win games and we’ll be hoping for that tomorrow as well as hoping City, who are one of the title favourites, are not close to their best.

There’s been an overreaction to the defeat of course, there always is. It’s no use beating about the bush, on the night we weren’t anywhere near good enough with individual mistakes costing goals and making things even worse. I know we’ve only picked up one point from our five away games so far but that’s by some distance the worst we’ve played against probably the weakest team we’ve met on the road.

We’ll need to do much better than that if we are to start collecting many, if any, points away from home but right now it is back at home where we’ve won 13 points from seven games. Having said that, tomorrow could not be much tougher could it?

As difficult as it might be tomorrow there is no doubt that these were the games we were all wanting as we battled to win promotion back to the Premier League last season and that’s what midfielder Jeff Hendrick has said today ahead of the game.

“This is why we are here,” he said. They are a big team in the league. They are doing great and in the Champions League.

“We’ve had a few days to get ready, make sure we’re right and to enjoy the game. I think that’s the main thing. We know it’s going to be hard work playing these players but you’ve got to enjoy playing against these teams. That’s the reason why we fought hard to be in the Premier League. Every player outside this league wishes they were in our position, getting to play against these teams and we have got to enjoy it.”

Hendrick, since signing for the Clarets in a record breaking deal on transfer deadline day, has been an ever present since getting his first start at Leicester following a substitute appearance for a debut in the home game against Hull.

I think it would be a surprise if he were to be left out of the side after West Brom but there is every chance that Sean Dyche could give the team a shake up and he could revert back to his favoured 4-4-2 with Ashley Barnes, who came in for some big praise from his manager, likely to get only his second league start since returning from his cruciate ligament injury.

Dyche has confirmed a fully fit squad other than Tom Heaton having a tight calf which he suggested we might need to keep an eye on. Tom made his 150th appearance for the Clarets last Monday of which 142 have come in successive league games, I’m sure it would have to be a hell of a tight calf to keep him out.

It’s difficult to think what the side might be but Scott Arfield seems to be the one most at risk and that could see Hendrick used in a wider role. If so the team would be: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Dean Marney, Steven Defour, Jeff Hendrick, Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes. Subs from: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Michael Kightly, Scott Arfield, George Boyd, Patrick Bamford, Andre Gray.

City arrive in third place in the table, below Liverpool on goal difference and just a point behind leaders Chelsea. They lost only once, that a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham. Other than that they have not dropped a point away from home. They’ve already been to and beaten Stoke, Manchester United, Swansea, West Brom and Crystal Palace. It’s at home where they have recently slipped. Having beaten Sunderland, West Ham and Bournemouth in their first three home games they’ve since drawn against Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough, all of them 1-1.

No matter which way you look at it, and they haven’t as yet played any of the other teams in the top four, they are very much title contenders and they really will provide very tough opposition for us.

When I look at City they have quality right through their side and even with the news that one of their best players is out and another one is doubtful doesn’t make it much easier. The player ruled out is Vincent Kompany who seems to pick up more injuries than most. His latest knee ligament injury will rule him out for between four and six weeks.

Pep Guardiola has ruled out Yaya Toure replacing him in defence, confirming that the Ivorian will play further up the pitch. He’s suggested that the role could go to either Fernandinho or Bacary Sagna.

Sergio Aguero is also a doubt with a foot problem picked up in the Champions League game against Borussia Mönchengladbach. He has trained and has been monitored in training but it is likely he’ll be left out if there is any doubt. The same goals for Pablo Zabaleta who is also a doubt.

Any absence of Aguero is important. He’s already scored eight goals this season in the Premier League although three of them have been penalties, somewhat strange given the number of spot kicks he actually misses. But they’ve got goals elsewhere and Raheem Sterling, who scored for Liverpool at Burnley two seasons ago has already netted four times this season.

However, no matter who is fit and who is not, they will have a very strong team out. It will show changes from that which played this week’s Champions League game when Guardiola used a 3-4-3 system, and that was: Claudio Bravo, Aleksandar Kolarov, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Jesus Navas, David Silva, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero. Subs: Willy Caballero, Gael Clichy, Kelechi Iheanacho, Leroy Sané, Fernando, Nolito, Bacary Sagna.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

It was mid-March 2015 when Manchester City were last at Turf Moor in what was probably the most memorable home game of the whole season as a George Boyd goal just past the hour gave us a 1-0 win. It took us within one point of Sunderland who were fourth from bottom but alas this proved to be our last home win of the season and the goal was the last we scored at the Turf in a Premier League game until Sam Vokes gave us the lead against Liverpool in August this year.

Sean Dyche made two significant changes for this game. He recalled Michael Duff at the expense of Michael Keane and up front there was a first start for Sam Vokes since his cruciate injury. Ashley Barnes moved into a wide position with Michael Kightly dropping out. For Vokes it was a first ever start in the Premier League.

We more than held our own in the first half with Danny Ings getting a shot in just wide of target and Scott Arfield forcing Joe Hart into a save. Still, it was good to get in at half time level and hope we could repeat that in the second half.

David Silva should have done better with an early effort in the second half and then Boyd had a tester, volleying just wide, but his moment was to come in the next attack. Martin Demichelis was yellow carded for fouling Ings. Trippier’s free kick was headed out of the box by Vincent Kompany but only to Boyd whose sweet half volley was never going anywhere else but the corner of City’s net.

At that point a thirty minute onslaught was expected but in truth it didn’t come although there is no doubt they should have had a penalty right at the end but it was, thankfully, waved away.

With the home fans roaring the team on, we survived it, and the win left us with real hopes that we could avoid the drop. This had been a fantastic win.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, George Boyd, Scott Arfield, David Jones, Ashley Barnes, Danny Ings (Steven Reid 90+3), Sam Vokes (Stephen Ward 87). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Michael Keane, Ross Wallace, Michael Kightly, Lucas Jutkiewicz.

Manchester City: Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Gael Clichy, Jesus Navas, Yaya Toure (Frank Lampard 81), Fernandinho, David Silva (Stevan Jovetic 74), Edin Dzeko (Wilfried Bony 63), Sergio Aguero. Subs not used: Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Eliaquim Mangala, Samir Nasri.

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