Clarets off to the home of the champions
If someone had told me a year ago that we would win promotion at the end of the season and would play an away game against the champions in mid-September, I would have assumed Chelsea, Manchester City or United, even Arsenal but I don’t think I could ever have envisaged that being Leicester.
But that’s where we are heading for our second away game of the season having lost previously at Chelsea some three weeks ago.
We were the first team to beat Leicester at their current home. That was in 2002 and on our first five visits we recorded four 1-0 wins and a 0-0 draw. Since, it hasn’t been the best of places for us. We’ve drawn three and lost two with the home record against them even worse with the last four games all lost. Our last win against them was in August 2010 when goals from Ross Wallace, Chris Iwelumo and a Graham Alexander penalty gave us a 3-0 win. Dean Marney was in the Burnley side that day with Andy King playing for Leicester; no one else involved remains on the playing staff of their respective clubs.
Leicester used to be a good ground for us in the 1960s and twice in one season we came home with memorable victories from Filbert Street. Early in that season we won 6-2 with a performance that was considered as good as any produced by that particular Burnley team and later in the same season we beat Fulham there in an FA Cup semi-final replay.
As for the current squad, the new players are settling in well. Steven Defour scored that sensational goal last week in a game that saw Johann Berg Gudmundsson make his first league start for us. More recent signings, Jeff Hendrick and Patrick Bamford, made debuts from the bench.
Hendrick had only been with us for a couple of days after returning from international duty but he’s had a full week now and has been getting to know his new team mates on the training ground although he has apparently fallen foul of the fine system having been, according to him, stitched up. He’s now ready to sing his initiation song which, he has admitted, will not be good.
As for the training, he said: “The first week here has been hard work and I was told it would be, but I’ve enjoyed it. I know I am going to get fitter here and I’m going to have to work hard.”
Looking forward to Saturday, he added: “I’ve played against Leicester a few times in the Championship and had a few heavy defeats at their place over the years, but I watched them last year and I think everyone was rooting for them.
“They have done well, but I think they might find it hard this year. People will look at them differently as champions of England and people are going to set up differently against them. It’s then how they deal with that.”
It continues to be difficult to determine what the Burnley team might be. I don’t envisage many changes, if any, from the team that drew with Hull. Hendrick, for one, will be pushing for a place but it might be the case that he’ll have to claim it via another appearance from the bench.
With Ashley Barnes still ruled out, it will likely be the same 18 on duty as last week, if so, we could line up: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Dean Marney, Steven Defour, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray. Subs: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Jeff Hendrick, Scott Arfield, Michael Kightly, Patrick Bamford.
It’s not easy to take in what has happened at Leicester since we last played them in April 2015. A year earlier we’d gone up from the Championship together, Leicester returning to the top flight for the first time in a decade, but we’d both struggled in a relegation battle throughout the season.
When Leicester lost at Spurs five weeks before they came to Burnley, all looked lost. They were six points behind us and seven points from safety. With just 19 points from 29 games they were the odds on certainties to go down.
Incredibly they won seven of their last nine games and they lost just once, and that was to a Chelsea side homing in on the title. It was the most incredible of turnarounds. They were still favourites for the drop when last season kicked off but they were beaten just three times, picked up 81 points and won the title by a ten point margin from Arsenal.
I think most people with an interest in football just sat there waiting for things to go wrong, but it didn’t happen, they kept going as we all sat in disbelief that they could actually become Premier League champions. Only Arsenal, twice, and Liverpool beat them and that means they are one of the clubs carrying the flag for England in the Champions League this season.
Their own fans were finding it difficult to take in two days ago in Belgium as they kicked off their group with a 3-0 win against Club Brugge and away from home. Marc Albrighton scored the opener with Riyad Mahrez scoring the other two, the second of them from the penalty spot.
It hasn’t been the perfect start in the league, however. Like us they have four points from one win, one draw and two defeats and are just below us on goal difference. They’ve beaten Swansea and drawn against Arsenal in their two home games but lost both on the road at Hull on the opening day and then, last week, at Liverpool where they were soundly beaten 4-1.
Claudio Ranieri rang his bell during the summer to bring in a number of new signings, seven in total all from European countries outside of Britain. it includes players such as Ahmed Musa who cost £16 million from CSKA Moscow and Sporting Lisbon’s Islam Slimani who is tipped to be a star in the Premier League.
From the Liverpool defeat, Ranieri made just two changes to the side for the Brugge game and one of those was forced on him with an injury to Danny Simpson. The other saw Slimani come in for Okazaki.
Simpson is expected to be fit and they could return to the side that was beaten at Anfield for tomorrow’s game. If so, it will be: Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Simpson, Robert Huth, Wes Morgan, Christian Fuchs, Danny Drinkwater, Daniel Amartey, Marc Albrighton, Riyad Mahrez, Shinji Okazaki, Jamie Vardy. Subs from: Ron-Robert Zieler, Ben Chilwell, Andy King, Demarai Gray, Luis Hernández, Leo Ulloa, Ahmed Musa, Islam Slimani.
LAST TIME WE WERE THERE
Scott Arfield had given Burnley the lead in the opening game of the 2014/15 season at home to Chelsea. We eventually lost the game 3-1, lost 1-0 at Swansea in the next game and then added three 0-0 draws before losing 4-0 at West Brom. That was six games played, three points and only one goal scored. We were bottom of the league with three points but Leicester had started much better and had secured eight points which included a 5-3 win in their previous home game against Manchester United, a controversial affair when referee Mark Clattenburg gave them a helping hand.
Our lack of goals was stretching towards a club record when we kicked off and we kicked off with a strange looking team. All of Matt Taylor, Dean Marney and David Jones remained out and Nathaniel Chalobah was added to that list with a damaged wind pipe sustained in an under-21 game. It meant we kicked off with an unlikely pairing of Scott Arfield and debutant Stephen Ward in the centre of midfield. By the end, Kieran Trippier had been stretchered off and another debutant Michael Keane came on to finish the game at right-back.
From the start it was a much improved performance and there was little between the teams in the first half hour. Then disaster struck. Riyad Mahrez got down the left and his cross found the unmarked Jeff Schlupp who scored with ease.
This was looking bad now given we’d forgotten how to score goals, but six minutes later the away section of the King Power lifted when Michael Kightly bundled home an equaliser. Arfield played the ball in from a position to the left and it was met at the far post by Lukas Jutkiewicz. His cushion header was perfect for the onrushing Kightly who got there before Kasper Schmeichel to score.
The celebrations didn’t last long, around a minute and a half to be exact. Schlupp and Jamie Vardy broke down the left. The latter’s cross deflected off Jason Shackell and that left Mahrez with an easy header to put Leicester straight back in front.
The second half started quietly but it was the introduction of Marvin Sordell that changed things. He started to cause Leicester problems with his pace. We put them under some real pressure and then, deep into stoppage time, Ross Wallace, also on as a substitute, turned Paul Konchesky inside out down the right before crossing for Ashley Barnes. His shot was blocked and they could only get the ball out to Arfield just outside the box. Matty James fouled him and we had a free kick which Wallace got over the wall and into the net for our fourth point of the season.
All we had to contend with then were the appalling comments from Nigel Pearson who we saw clearly that season couldn’t handle the pressure. It had been our best performance of the season to date.
The teams were;
Leicester: Kasper Schmeichel, Ritchie De Laet, Wes Morgan, Liam Moore, Paul Konchesky, Riyad Mahrez (Anthony Knockaert 72), Danny Drinkwater, Dean Hammond (Matty James 78), Jeff Schlupp, Leonardo Ulloa (David Nugent 63), Jamie Vardy. Subs not used: Ben Hamer, Marcin Wasilewski, Andy King, Chris Wood.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier (Michael Keane 86), Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Michael Kightly (Ross Wallace 79), Scott Arfield, Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Marvin Sordell 67), Ashley Barnes, Lukas Jutkiewicz. Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Kevin Long, Danny Lafferty, Steven Hewitt.Share this page :