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1718 burnley turf moor 04 1000x500It seems an age since we walked away from the Liberty Stadium in the South Wales rain after a 1-0 defeat against Swansea City but we are back in action tomorrow when Southampton are at Turf Moor.

One week off for the FA Cup 5th round is all it was but that Swansea game seems weeks ago. Now, refreshed, we are at home and looking for our first win of 2018 against a Southampton team who provided us with our first league win of 2017.

Whilst we’ve been biding time, maybe watching under-23 or under-18 games, our team has been away soaking up the sun in Portugal. They’ve been working hard though according to Sean Dyche and you wouldn’t have expected it to be any different. The only problem is, there were hopes of players coming back from injury but we’ve come back with Dyche himself injured so we’ll find out tomorrow whether that will affect his performance in the technical area.

We could do with a win. It will stop all the references to ten Premier League games without one, all the talk of us not having won for over seventy days. They are facts, but also in those list of facts are the lengthy injury list we’ve had to deal with and the quality of opposition faced during that run.

The manager has always said that he wants to improve on last season. In terms of points, that would need us to get another five between now and the end of the season but I’m sure he’ll be looking to get more than that.

The recent injuries have given left-back Charlie Taylor his first taste of Premier League football. He came on as a substitute for Stephen Ward in the 1-0 win against Stoke, our most recent victory, and has been in the team ever since although Ward did return to the bench at Swansea.

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He said this week that playing at this level has improved him as a player. “I think I’ve improved from last season just in these last two months alone. You are learning on the job, coming up against the players who are week in, week out.

“The Premier League is so tough. You’ve got a top class winger up against you every week. Even when you’re not player the top six, there’s a Zaha or Shaqiri. It’s a very tough league but one you want to test yourself in.”

Still looking for his first win in a Burnley starting eleven, he added: “You’ve just got to stay focused and stay calm and if you keep on playing well the results will come. The performances have been good, other than maybe at Swansea, and we have picked up some good results along the way, the draw against City being the highlight. A draw against City is nearly as good as a win but the three points is what we need and now with a couple of home games coming up, hopefully we can get there.”

So, how’s the injury list looking. We know Robbie Brady and Steven Defour are out for the season, they’ve not even been included in our Premier League squads, whilst Jon Walters, although close to returning to training is not quite there.

Scott Arfield has a calf problem that is expected to keep him out tomorrow but, other than that, everyone is back in training although tomorrow’s game is probably just too early for James Tarkowski whilst Tom Heaton is still, according to Dyche, several matches away.

The big news is that both Dean Marney and Chris Wood are in contention after returning to fitness. Wood’s not been seen since the pre-Christmas game against Spurs. I don’t expect him to start but I’d definitely expect him to be on the bench. Marney, who could also make the bench, hasn’t kicked a ball for the first team since January last year at Arsenal.

That suggests the line up won’t be too different to the one beaten at Swansea although I do think, after playing with the two strikers in the last two games, we’ll revert to the system we’ve used for most of the season. If that’s the case it will give Ashley Westwood a first home league start of the season.

The team could be: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Aaron Lennon, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Barnes. Subs from: Anders Lindegaard, Phil Bardsley, Stephen Ward, Aiden O’Neill, Dean Marney, Georges-Kévin NKoudou, Nahki Wells, Sam Vokes, Chris Wood.

Southampton are currently in the relegation places. They are ahead of Stoke and West Brom but so close are things down at the bottom they find themselves only a win away from a mid-table position.

It’s a far cry from recent seasons. They were promoted in 2012 and finished 14th in their first season back. Since they’ve not been outside the top eight in any of the last four seasons. It was eighth they finished last season in Claude Puel’s first as manager, but it was not enough for him to keep his job and they replaced him with Mauricio Pellegrino who is currently the only Premier League manager to have played in the Premier League.

They did, however, win their last away game. That was three weeks ago at Brighton when goals from Mario Lemina, Jack Stephens and James Ward-Prowse gave them a 3-2 win. Since, they’ve been beaten at home by Liverpool and then followed that up with a 2-1 win at West Brom in the FA Cup to line up a 6th round tie which has landed them a trip back to the North West to face League One Wigan.

We need to be aware though, that Liverpool defeat was only their second loss in 2018, the previous defeat coming at home against Crystal Palace on 2nd January. They have six points so far this year, that’s four more than us.

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There is absolutely no doubt they’ve missed their main man when it comes to goals. We Burnley fans know all about Charlie Austin. He’s one of the few names I’d include in a list of natural goalscorers I’ve seen play for us so it was somewhat surprising to see Pellegrino using him mainly as a substitute earlier in the season.

He has started only five Premier League games, coming on eleven times as a substitute, but has scored six goals for them. He scored the goal in their 1-1 home draw against Huddersfield on 23rd December but picked up an injury and hasn’t featured since.

Also out is Maya Yoshida, he’s out for the next four or five weeks, whilst Shane Long and Steven Davis are considered unlikely to feature. However, Sofiane Boufal is available having missed the FA Cup match last week.

The injuries aren’t a problem according to the manager. He said: “This is part of our job. When you have a squad of 22, 23, 24 players, you need them to be ready when you have something unexpected, like injured players.”

In their last league game, against Liverpool, they lined up: Alex McCarthy, Cédric Soares, Jack Stephens, Wesley Hoedt, Ryan Bertrand, Dusan Tadic, Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Mario Lemina, Guido Carrillo. Subs: Fraser Forster, Manolo Gabbiadini, Maya Yoshida, Nathan Redmond, Sofiane Boufal, Steven Davis, Shane Long.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

It was January 2017 when Southampton were last at Turf Moor. We’d started the year with a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City that had left us 11th in the Premier League, and we’d followed that up with a 0-0 FA Cup draw at Sunderland that was memorable only for the fact that our first January signing made his debut, a second Burnley debut as it happened for Joey Barton.

The three previous home games against Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Sunderland had all ended in wins but we knew the much higher placed Southampton would be a different proposition entirely.

They were probably the better of the two teams in the first half but we went in at 0-0 after a good defensive display but things improved for us in the second half. Even so, it remained goalless until the two managers made substitutions and would one of the first two, one from each team, have a say.

With 68 minutes gone, Southampton replaced Dusan Tadic with Jay Rodriguez; five minutes later and Sean Dyche played his first hand with Barton coming on for Dean Marney who had picked up an injury.

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Five more minutes passed when we won a free kick outside the box. Up stepped Barton, who had never scored a Turf Moor goal. He put that right. He fooled goalkeeper Fraser Forster, it might have got a deflection off a Southampton backside but Joey was soon celebrating what proved to be the winner.

1-0 was very close to 1-1 thought right at the end when Jay Rod forced Tom Heaton into a good save with the England goalkeeper making an even better one to keep out the follow up shot from Jay Sims. The points were ours, a fourth successive home win in the Premier League and Joey had returned a hero although he was quick to pass the praise on to goalkeeper and defence for their performances.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney (Joey Barton 73), Steven Defour (Sam Vokes 74), Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray (James Tarkowski 87). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Kightly.

Southampton: Fraser Forster, Cédric Soares, Maya Yoshida, Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand, Pierre Højbjerg, Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse, Dusan Tadic (Jay Rodriguez 68), Shane Long, Nathan Redmond (Josh Sims 80). Subs not used: Stuart Taylor, Jordy Clasie, Cuco Martina, Harrison Reed, Jack Stephens.

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