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1516 burnley turf moor 04Sunderland make the trip to Turf Moor tomorrow on New Year’s Eve for our last game of what has been an outstanding 2016 for Burnley Football Club, but as good as it has been, there is no doubt we will be looking for, wanting, and needing the three points on offer.

I will be looking back over the year during next week, but it was a year that started with us in fifth place in the Championship just one point ahead of Ipswich who were our first opponents in 2016.

Sunderland are our last opponents and we go into the game in 14th place in the Premier League with 20 points taken from the first 18 games. There’s a long, long way to go yet this season but it has been a decent enough start, at home if not on our travels where we have picked up just one point.

Tomorrow will present us with a tough game, of that there is no doubt, and 2017, no matter what, will be another big challenge for the Clarets, but it is one we are all looking forward to, manager, staff, players and fans.

Michael Keane, who has seen himself selected for the England squad for the first time this year, is looking forward to tomorrow’s game and beyond. “2016 was a brilliant year for Burnley, but 2017 could be even bigger if we stay in the Premier League, and we have a brilliant training facility which we will be hopefully moving into February time.”

He added: “I think we’ve got a nice amount of points on the board and we’re in a nice position. I think we would probably have taken that if you had offered it at the start of the season.

“The teams that are going to be around you, they are the big ones when they come to your place. We had a great result against Middlesbrough last time out and we need the same against Sunderland. We know it’s going to be difficult. They’ve got some good players, especially going forward, so we will have to play really well.”

There’s been a lot of speculation surrounding Keane again recently with a number of clubs linked with him, just as it was in the summer. He just seems to get on with things. He said in August he was happy to be at Burnley and I don’t think that’s changed. Hopefully it will remain like that until the end of the season at least.

He’s one of three ever presents in the team this season in the Premier League; the other two are his defensive team mate Ben Mee and midfielder Dean Marney. There is nothing to suggest he won’t continue alongside Mee tomorrow although Marney’s place is in some doubt having picked up an injury in the Boxing Day win against Middlesbrough.

The suggestions from within Turf Moor are that he’ll be OK and if so will be a relief with Jeff Hendrick, who has been such an influence recently, ruled out having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season, one when he was with Derby and four since joining us.

That should see Belgian Steven Defour return to the side and there could be a place for Johann Berg Gudmundsson with Sean Dyche presumably looking at the fact that we have two fixtures in two days with the Manchester City trip to come on Monday.

Matt Lowton, who was ruled out of the Middlesbrough game with a one match ban, is available again. I thought Jon Flanagan did well enough but I expect Lowton to return.

The team could be: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Dean Marney, Steven Defour, George Boyd, Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray. Subs from: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Michael Kightly, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Patrick Bamford.

Sunderland’s seasons seem to follow a familiar pattern. They start badly, change manager and then recover enough to stay up for another season. It’s only a matter of a month over five years since Steve Bruce left but since then they’ve had Martin O’Neill, Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat. Sam Allardyce and now David Moyes in charge.

This season is a little different. Allardyce kept them up last season but left in the summer for his short stint as England boss which saw Moyes arrive for the beginning of the season the first time since Bruce that they’ve employed a new manage in the close season.

Things started dreadfully and they failed to win any of their first ten games, but there has been a change of fortune since with four wins in the last eight games. It all started with a fortuitous win at Bournemouth and they’ve also now beaten Hull, Leicester and Watford at the Stadium of Light.

They certainly have some very good players we will need to keep more than an eye on and we need to look no further than Jermain Defoe who has scored over half of their goals so far. Fabio Borini, who scored his first goal of the season on Boxing Day at Manchester United, and Adnan Januzaj are also two forwards with an eye for goal.

They also have a very good left back in Patrick van Aanholt. He’s scored three times this season and can already boast a goal against Burnley, for Leicester in 2011.

But they also have one other star player. He’s Bradley Lowery (pictured) who scored a penalty recently against Chelsea from a penalty spot a little bit closer to the goal line than is usually the case.

The 5-year-old Sunderland fan is suffering from neuroblastoma, a cancer that effects children usually under the age of 5, and the recent news for the little boy who everyone has taken to their hearts is not good. Sunderland have been wonderful with him; Everton made an incredible donation to help raise funds to get him treatment, and football in general has been superb in supporting him.

It looks as though Moyes will have to rule him out tomorrow. While the other players were training yesterday, Bradley was visiting the Harry Potter Studio in London. It was a Christmas gift from the club.

Everyone involved with Up the Clarets would like to send Bradley and his family our very best wishes.

So who will Moyes select? His goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been ruled out with a knee injury sustained at Old Trafford. He’ll be out for six to eight weeks and that opens the door for Vito Mannone to return.

Januzaj, unavailable against his parent club, is available again while all of Javier Manquillo, Jack Rodwell and Steven Pienaar are back in training after injuries. Definitely ruled out are Lee Cattermole, Duncan Watmore and Jan Kirchhoff.

The suggestions are that Januzaj will come back in for Sebastian Larsson along with the goalkeeper change from the team that lost at United.

They could line up: Vito Mannone, Billy Jones, Patrick van Aanholt, Jason Denayer, Papy Djilobodji, Adnan Januzaj, Fabio Borini, Didier Ndong, Jermain Defoe, Lamine Kone, Victor Anichebe. Subs from: Mika, John O’Shea, Joel Asoro, Sebastian Larsson, George Honeyman, Elliot Embleton, Donald Love, Wahbi Khazri, Jack Rodwell, Steven Pienaar.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

This is a game that was never likely to live long in the memory. Having lost the opening two games of the 2014/15 Premier League season, Burnley followed that up with 0-0 draws at home to Manchester United and Crystal Palace. The next game was Sunderland at home and, like the two previous games, it ended in a goalless draw.

George Boyd made a home debut for the Clarets while Michael Keane was on the bench for the second successive home game; this time it was for Burnley, he’d been named as a substitute for United in the previous game.

With Danny Ings out with a hamstring injury, Sean Dyche went with Marvin Sordell, for his first start, and Lukas Jutkiewicz up front with Ashley Barnes on the bench.

We started on the front foot but just couldn’t get a goal. Twice John O’Shea defended brilliantly to deny Sordell and Vito Mannone saved well from David Jones, and we should have had a penalty when Wes Brown pushed Jutkiewicz.

By half time, Sunderland had come back into the game and the 0-0 scoreline at the interval was probably a fair reflection of the first half.

The second half was a reverse of the first. Sunderland were the better side in the early period, just like us though failing to score, but then we took over and put them under some pressure in the latter part of the game. The closest we came was when Barnes saw a shot deflected onto the top of the bar.

Overall though it had been a decent performance but 0-0 it was and it was the first time in the club’s history that we had run up three consecutive goalless games.

The goals against column certainly changed next time out – we went to West Brom.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield, Dean Marney, David Jones (Ross Wallace 86), George Boyd (Steven Reid 90+2), Marvin Sordell (Ashley Barnes 63), Lukas Jutkiewicz. Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Michael Keane, Stephen Ward, Michael Kightly.

Sunderland: Vito Mannone, Santiago Vergini, John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Patrick van Aanholt, Lee Cattermole, Adam Johnson (Jozy Altidore 67), Sebastian Larsson (Jordi Gomez 67), Jack Rodwell, Emanuele Giaccherini (Will Buckley 73), Connor Wickham. Subs not used: Costel Pantilimon, Billy Jones, Liam Bridcutt, Danny Graham.

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