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1617 burnley turf moor 02 1000x500Last season, Burnley and Watford finished 16th and 17th respectively in the Premier League when both teams ended the season with 40 points, a comfortable six points above the drop zone although we were the two clubs closest to that bottom three of Hull City, Middlesbrough and Sunderland.

I’m not sure anyone too far away from either of the two clubs would have expected tomorrow’s game to be nothing more than a game between two teams who might have relegation worries at some stage this season although it’s not quite working out that way.

Right now, after 15 games, Burnley sit seventh with 25 points and that’s just one place higher than Watford who currently have three points less than us. There are no guarantees in this league, but with starts like that, neither are really expected to be in any sort of trouble this season.

I say start, but it’s 15 games and that means we’ve played almost 40% of the season so it is not just a good start we’ve made and I’d think another three wins could see us reach a points total the bottom three might find difficult to reach come the end of the season.

For much of the season we’ve had a very settled team. Up until, and including, the Arsenal game, we had no fewer than seven ever presents in the team. That was the entire back four of Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and Stephen Ward alongside midfielders Steven Defour, Jack Cork and Robbie Brady. Four of them, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee and Cork, had played every single minute of every league game.

That changed at Bournemouth. Lowton was ruled out with an injury and that allowed Phil Bardsley to step in for his second Burnley league debut. He retained his place at Leicester and he’s done well in both games. He’s likely to play for Burnley in a league game at the Turf tomorrow for the first time since a 1-0 win against QPR on 8th April 2006 when Andy Gray, who had joined us on the same day as Bardsley, scored the only goal.

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Now, another of those ever presents is out of the side. As has been widely reported in the last week, Brady was stretchered off at Leicester after half an hour and scans later revealed a patellar tendon tear which has since been repaired. He’ll be out for the foreseeable future which is likely to be the rest of the season.

It’s a massive blow to lose Brady, certainly given the way he’s been playing. I thought he turned in his best ever performance for us at Bournemouth and he was following that up with an equally outstanding performance at Leicester until he suffered the injury in the collision with his former Hull team mate Harry Maguire.

His best mate Jeff Hendrick, while accepting how much Brady will be missed, wants to help out by scoring more goals. He’s got two this season, both in 1-0 wins at Everton and at home against Newcastle. That’s equalled his 2016/17 total when his first came in the Watford home game in what was Hendrick’s first home start for Burnley.

He said it would be nice to get a repeat tomorrow but warned: “They have been flying as well and putting in really good performances. We just need to make sure we’re ready and we know what we need to do. We’re happy with how it’s gone and I’m sure Watford are too, but we need to keep going and keep putting points on the board.”

He said his mate wasn’t too down and knows what  he needs to do. “He knows it’s going to be a good few months, but he’s focused on getting himself back fit, stronger and ready to go. He is strong mentally, so I’m sure he will be okay.”

With Brady out, I expect Scott Arfield to come in having replaced the Republic of Ireland international during the Leicester game and hopefully that will be the only change although there is a doubt over Ben Mee. Sean Dyche suggested he should be fine but if not it would likely see Kevin Long get his first appearance of the season.

I expect we will line up: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood. Subs: Anders Lindegaard, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Ashley Westwood, Ashley Barnes, Sam Vokes, Nahki Wells.

Watford fans would have been relieved when Sam Allardyce was appointed Everton manager. They had every right to be even more concerned than we were over Sean Dyche with Everton clearly making approaches for their manager.

It shouldn’t really be a problem at Watford who have had no fewer than eight different managers since Sean Dyche was fired in the summer of 2012. They claim they don’t change manager during the season but four of those changes were made mid-season, three in the same 2014/15 season in which they won promotion.

But Silva arrived in the summer and he’s done a remarkable job since replacing Walter Mazzarri and currently has his side in eighth place. They weren’t beaten in any of their first eight games and, although four defeats have followed, they have picked up some very favourable results both home and away.

Only Liverpool and Manchester City have scored more away goals than Watford. They have 15 in seven games and that’s two in each game until their last away game at Newcastle which was won 3-0.

Abdoulaye Doucourè and the Brazilian Richarlison are the leading scorers. Both have five with four players behind them on two and that group includes former Claret Andre Gray and Troy Deeney, the player we were so keen to sign in 2014.

One other former Claret at Watford is Nathaniel Chalobah, but he’s been out for some time with injury. He remains out of the reckoning along with Younès Kaboul, Craig Cathcart, Will Hughes and Isaac Success although Success is back in training. Miguel Britos is also fighting a battle to be fit.

In their last match, a 1-1 home draw against Spurs, they lined up: Heurelho Gomes, Adrian Mariappa, Sebastian Prödl, Christian Kabasele, Kiko Feminía, Abdoulaye Doucourè, Tom Cleverley, Marvin Zeegalaar, Roberto Pereyra, Richarlison, Troy Deeney. Subs: Orestis Karnezis, Daryl Janmaat, Molle Wagué, Ben Watson, Étienne Capouè, André Carrillo, Andre Gray.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

Burnley beat Watford at home last season. We won 2-0 with goals from Jeff Hendrick and Michael Keane, both first Premier League goals for the players, to record a second win of the season in our sixth game.

They, and man of the match Steven Defour, took the plaudits but Burnley on the night were so much better than a Watford team who started the game with eleven players from eleven different countries.

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The game was played on a Monday night for television, thus giving us our first opportunity to show off our new floodlights and under the new bright lights we saw Hendrick open the scoring, heading home a corner and in the second half we saw Keane do likewise when Defour crossed a beauty after his initial corner had been headed back out to him.

Troy Deeney, after the game, said Burnley had bullied his team into submission, and there is no doubt that we were far and away the better side.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Michael Kightly 90+3), Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Steven Defour (Scott Arfield 83), George Boyd, Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Aiden O’Neill, Patrick Bamford.

Watford: Heurelho Gomes, Craig Cathcart (Juan Camilo Zúñiga ht), Sebastian Prödl, Miguel Britos, Nordin Amrabat (Isaac Success 58), Étienne Capouè, Valon Behrami, Roberto Pereyra (Kenedy 75), José Holebas, Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo. Subs not used: Costel Pantilimon, Younès Kaboul, Ben Watson, Adlène Guedioura.

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