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swansea 1000x500Tomorrow sees part two in our run of four successive away wins and from Hull City last week it is off to South Wales for our game against Swansea City.

An away match brings with it all the discussions about how we have the worst away record in the league, how we can’t win and how that compares with a home record that is only bettered by Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Sean Dyche and his players keep talking about how we are improving away from home. It’s certainly not been reflected in the results, other than the defeats earlier in the season were by much bigger margins, but there is absolutely no doubt that the performances have improved.

The simple fact is that we’ve always found it difficult to win away from home in this league. First time round there was the 4-1 win at Hull which came in the 17th away game of the season and with two games to go last time we’d only won at Stoke, taking that total to three with 1-0 wins at Hull and Aston Villa.

Hull’s been and gone now with Swansea our next target but, at the end of the day, the final points total of home and away games combined will determine where we finish in the league and we’ve already broken our Premier League record of home wins having picked up maximum points nine times this season. That total has even exceeded our total number of wins in a season.

We go into this game in 11th place, with 31 points from our 26 points. We know we need more points before we can breathe easily which captain Tom Heaton readily admits. “There’s a long way to go,” he said. “We’ve obviously put ourselves in a good position. That’s realistic.

“It’s important now we go and finish the job. We want to go and make sure we step on from here, not maintain. We want to get better and improve, keep the home form going but look to get more points away from home. That’s our mindset. We are looking to press forward and not rest on any laurels at all.”

Heaton will lead his Burnley team out at the Liberty Stadium with Burnley still to pick up a first Premier League point and score a first Premier League goal against the Welsh club. All three games have so far ended in 1-0 defeats for the Clarets.

We will still be without both Steven Defour and Johann Berg Gudmundsson. Defour has already missed four games, three in the league, since suffering a hamstring injury against Leicester while Gudmundsson will be out for a second successive league game having suffered a knee injury in the cup tie against Lincoln.

Ashley Barnes, sent off at Hull last week, will sit this one out through a one match ban while Joey Barton could be facing his last game for a while should the FA hit him with a suspension next week for his betting activity. I have no odds on the outcome of that.

But there is good news team wise for us with a return for Jeff Hendrick. Sent off at Watford, he received a three match ban having missed all but the first six minutes of the defeat at Vicarage Road.

Sam Vokes will come in for Barnes and I expect Hendrick to come straight back, with Ashley Westwood the likely player to drop out.

The team would be: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Jeff Hendrick, Joey Barton, Robbie Brady, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray. Subs: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Ashley Westwood, Scott Arfield, Dan Agyei.

It’s been a strange season for Swansea who are now on their third manager. They kicked off with Italian Francesco Guidolin in charge but fired him in early October. That led to the bizarre appointment of American Bob Bradley who managed just two wins in eleven games before he was also shown the door with Paul Clement coming in on 3rd January.

Swansea were next to bottom at the time, just two points clear of bottom club Hull, but they’ve won three of six league games since which has taken them up to 16th in the table although still just two points ahead of Crystal Palace who currently occupy the highest relegation place.

There are certainly key players to watch. Midfielder Leroy Fer, who scored the goal in their win at the Turf on the season’s opening day, has scored six times which is the same number as our leading scorer, but they’ve two players with more goals. Icelandic international Gylfi Sigurdsson has eight while Spain international striker Fernando Llorente, signed last summer from Sevilla has nine goals.

Swansea have won only four home games this season. They beat Crystal Palace 5-4 in a crazy game in November and beat Sunderland 3-0 in the next home game. But having lost to Arsenal in Clement’s first home game in charge they’ve since picked up maximum points against Southampton and Leicester. They are certainly very much a different proposition to the team under Bradley.

Swansea have to former Burnley loan players in their squad. We can expect to see Jack Cork in action although Nathan Dyer has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an injury.

Otherwise, Swansea have a fully fit squad although two players just returning from injury are not likely to be considered. Both Jefferson Montero and Ki Sung-yeung are back in training but Clement has said they are being considered for next week’s game at Hull rather than the Burnley game.

It’s been very much the same side in recent games although January signings Luciano Narsingh, a player we were linked with, and Jordan Ayew are both doing well and pushing for starts.

Swansea will be looking to bounce back from last week’s defeat at Chelsea when they lined up: Lukasz Fabianski, Kyle Naughton, Federico Fernandez, Alfie Mawson, Martin Olsson, Jack Cork, Tom Carroll, Leroy Fer, Wayne Routledge, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Fernando Llorente. Subs: Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Angel Rangel, Jordi Amat, Leon Britton, Borja, Jordan Ayew, Luciano Narsingh.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

Two seasons ago our game at Swansea was the first away game of the season. We’d been beaten at home by Chelsea while they had recorded a 2-1 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford in a season that would see them finish in 8th place with 56 points.

Burnley fielded the same side that had kicked off the season in the Chelsea game but there were two changes on the bench with Steven Reid, who had missed the first game with injury, and Stephen Ward, newly signed from Wolves, replacing Cameron Dummigan and Kevin Long.

During a first half when Swansea were the better side, we did come close to taking the lead through Danny Ings while Jason Shackell cleared a Wilfried Bony header off the line and Tom Heaton saved well from Gylfi Sigurdsson.

But midway through the half we fell behind. Ben Mee misjudged a ball down Swansea’s right from Angel Rangel which allowed Nathan Dyer to run clear. Tom Heaton got a hand to his shot but couldn’t prevent it from going into the net.

It remained at 1-0 up to half time with Burnley looking more and more comfortable and by the end of the game Swansea must have been totally relieved to have won all three points with that 1-0 scoreline as Burnley came back and dominated much of the second half.

Lukasz Fabianski made a good save from Lukas Jutkiewicz and an outstanding save to deny David Jones. Between those two saves, Jutkiewicz headed just over with what proved to be our best chance.

It had been our first top flight meeting ever against Swansea and had ended in defeat, but there were a lot of positives to take from the game, especially after the game five days earlier when Chelsea tore us apart during a spell in the first half.

The teams were;

Swansea : Lukasz Fabianski, Angel Rangel, Ashley Williams, Jordi Amat, Neil Taylor, Ki Sung-yeung, Jonjo Shelvey, Nathan Dyer (Jefferson Montero 66), Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Routledge (Dwight Tiendalli 90), Wilfried Bony (Bafetimbi Gomis 64). Subs not used: Gerhard Tremmel, Kyle Bartley, Jazz Richards, Josh Sheehan.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield, Dean Marney, David Jones (Marvin Sordell 90+1), Matt Taylor (Ross Wallace 72), Danny Ings, Lukas Jutkiewicz (Ashley Barnes 82). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Steven Reid, Stephen Ward, Michael Kightly.

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