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watford prog bannerThe third international break of the season is over. We’ve got until March until the next one and it is back to Premier League football tomorrow for the Clarets and a trip to Watford as we look to continue the form we showed in the 3-0 win against West Ham at home two weeks ago.

The pre-match stats will once again show that we haven’t kept a clean sheet since our last visit to Vicarage Road back in January when we drew 0-0 and they also show that only Norwich, currently, have less points than we have on the road as we take on the side with the second worst home record.

Things haven’t really looked anything like as bad as that on the road. We lost at Arsenal in our first away game of the season but potentially could have got something from that game. The next three were all draws and the first of the two most recent defeats at Leicester was unfortunate. The only time I’ve left an away ground this season with real disappointment from the performance was at Sheffield United when, frankly, we were dreadful from start to finish.

It left most of us nervous going into the West Ham home game but, thankfully, it was a different looking Burnley and we were fully deserving of the 3-0 win that saw us move back up into the top half of the table. We’ve trained well according to Sean Dyche who, pointedly, said that there is good evidence to suggest we will be ready to deliver a good performance.

Looking forward to the game is midfielder Jack Cork who is now just four games away from having played for us 100 times in the Premier League. Cork had a number of loans to get some experience while he was at Chelsea. He twice came to us but before that he played for Watford during the second half of the 2008/09 season. He’d played against us for Southampton that season, when we won 3-2 at home, but he was in the Watford side that beat us 3-0 in late January at a time when they were managed by Brendan Rodgers.

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He scored the winner there two years ago and tomorrow he’s hoping we can continue where we left off before the break. He said: “It’s a good thing about this group that while I’ve been here, whenever we’ve had a bad result, we’ve come back and everyone has worked hard to change it. It was a perfect example when we played West Ham. We came away from a disappointing result at Sheffield United and we knew we had to be at our best. We knew it was a big game to get a result in and I think all over the pitch we out-matched them and it was just one of those games where everything went smoothly. It was a great performance, which we needed.”

He knows we’ll have to play well to get another good result but he added: “It will be nice to get that first away win and put it away and put it to the back of our minds. It would be nice to go there and have a good performance and start this sort of Christmas period with a win.”

Sean Dyche made three changes for the West Ham game but it is highly unlikely that he’ll be doing likewise for tomorrow’s game. Indeed it is very likely that he will name an unchanged team. There has been no change in the injury situation with both Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson and Matěj Vydra still ruled out.

Danny Drinkwater is getting closer. He’s fit now but just needs game time. It’s unlikely he’ll be involved tomorrow against a club who, like Cork, he played for on loan. If not, he’s very likely to play in one of next week’s under-23 games against Crewe and Blackburn.

I expect the team to be: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs from: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon, Robbie Brady, Jay Rodriguez.

I don’t think too many would have predicted as the season kicked off that Watford would be the first to make a managerial change but they sacked Javier Gracia in early September after they had started the season with just one point from the first four games and that point came in the last of those games at Newcastle.

New manager Quique Sánchez Flores started with a home draw against Arsenal, a game the Gunners really should have won, but then saw his side suffer a massive 8-0 defeat at Manchester City. They have recovered. They got a creditable draw at Spurs in October and in their last game finally won a game, beating Norwich 2-0 at Carrow Road with goals from Gerard Deulofeu (pictured below) and former Claret Andre Gray. Having been bottom all season, it lifted them above both Norwich and Southampton and within three points of fourth from bottom Aston Villa.

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They have some injury problems and none of Domingos Quina, Tom Cleverley, Daniel Bachmann, Danny Welbeck, Sebastian Prödl and Roberto Pereyra will be available through various injuries. Christian Kabasele is also out with a suspension but they have been boosted with the return to fitness of Troy Deeney and Ismaïla Sarr who are both available for selection. Deeney hasn’t played since the second weekend of the season while Sarr has been out since the first Saturday in October.

Their team at Norwich two weeks ago was: Ben Foster, Daryl Janmaat, Christian Kabasele, Craig Dawson, Craig Cathcart, José Holebas, Abdoulaye Doucouré, Étienne Capoue, Will Hughes, Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu. Subs: Heurelho Gomes, Marriappa, Nathanial Chalobah, Kiko Femenía, Adam Masina, Troy Deeney, Andre Gray.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

Things had finally begun to look up for the Clarets when we travelled to Watford in January last season. We arrived there on the back of three successive victories against West Ham, Huddersfield and Fulham and had moved out of the bottom three and into 15th place in the table.

It wasn’t to be a fourth successive win although it might have been, but the point from the 0-0 draw, despite moving us down a place in the table, took our unbeaten run to four games.

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After the first ten minutes of the game, we were by far the better side and would have won it had we been able to take our chances. That first ten minutes were worrying as they took the game to us and Tom Heaton was forced into one outstanding save to deny Gerard Deulofeu.

We should have been in front though by half time and we continued to dominate in the second half as we looked for a second successive Vicarage Road victory. The ninety minutes were played and it was still 0-0 but then we thought we’d won it. Ben Foster saved from Dwight McNeil but couldn’t prevent Chris Wood from netting the rebound. Unfortunately, up went the assistant referee’s flag for offside. The decision was incorrect and so we had to settle for a point from yet another very good performance.

The teams were;

Watford: Ben Foster, Kiko Femenía (Miguel Britos 77), Adrian Mariappa, Christian Kabasele, José Holebas, Ken Sema (Isaac Success 56), Tom Cleverley, Étienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu, Troy Deeney. Subs not used: Heurelho Gomes, Adam Masina, Domingos Quina, Ben Wilmot, Andre Gray.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Steven Defour, Matěj Vydra, Sam Vokes.

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