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1718 burnley turf moor 04 1000x500There is no need for mathematics any longer, Fulham’s win against Cardiff City today has made it certain that Burnley will be playing Premier League football again next season as we prepare for tomorrow’s visit of current champions Manchester City.

This is the first of three tough games that remain and probably the toughest of the lot, but we can go into it without the pressure of needing points with our place secure for next season. Four successive seasons in the Premier League is an amazing achievement for our club. It was 1967 to 1971 when we last enjoyed four successive years at the top table. We finished in 14th place in each of the first three of those seasons before going down and ending a 24 year run in 1971 when he had an awful season.

For so long it didn’t look as though we would get a fourth year, and it was only after the win at Bournemouth three weeks ago that I felt totally confident of staying up. That win took us to 36 points, a total I thought would probably be enough, and we’ve since added another four points, beating Cardiff and then securing a superb point in the draw at Chelsea where, not for the first time, they tried to belittle us with some totally unnecessary comments.

It’s been an incredible turn round in form since Christmas that has seen us reach safety. Since the second half of the season got underway, only the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool have won more points than us. City, Liverpool and Arsenal are the only three to have scored more goals than us and there won’t be many pairs of strikers who have scored more than the 17 goals Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood have netted between them.

Now we turn to these final three games and they really don’t come tougher than Manchester City. We’ve taken some big defeats at the Etihad and I think we can all remember a few heavy home defeats at home against them, one of them in this league when they hit us for six in 2010 with their first three goals coming in the first seven minutes of the game.

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How will we approach it tomorrow? Matt Lowton has been back in the side for the last three games because of an injury Phil Bardsley suffered at Gawthorpe. He said: “The pressure is kind of off a bit because we’ve done a good job over the past couple of weeks and got the points on the board.

“When you’re growing up and get into a first team you want to play against the best teams and the best players in the world, so we’re looking forward to getting out there. We did well against Chelsea at their place the other night, so we’ll be looking to take the confidence of the past few weeks into a full house at our place with a great atmosphere and hopefully we can go out and get a win.”

Besides City, Lowton faces another challenge tomorrow which is to keep his place with Bardsley fit again. It’s a challenge I think he’ll win. He was left out after a poor performance against Everton on Boxing Day but has come back in for the last three games and played really well, none more so than against Eden Hazard at Chelsea after enduring a difficult start.

Lowton said of that: “He is a top quality player. I thought in the second half I acquitted myself well and tried to keep him down the line. It’s the lesser of the two evils if he gets a cross in with our centre halves playing like they are at the minute who can hopefully deal with that. We tried to stop him cutting inside to either create a chance for himself or someone else and I thought on the whole we defended him well. Jeff did a great job just in front of me and we’ll be working hard to try and do the same again on Sunday.”

With Lowton expected to play, I think our team will be: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs from: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Stephen Ward, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Robbie Brady, Matěj Vydra.

Manchester City, for me, are the best team in the country so that’s real credit to Liverpool who have stuck with them all season and are currently ahead of them awaiting the outcome of City’s game in hand against us. It could go either way but City are not dropping many points as they look to become the first team to retain the Premier League title since 2009 when Manchester United made it two in two seasons, beating Liverpool and Chelsea into second and third.

They are looking for a fourth Premier League. They won it in 2011/12 with that stoppage time Agüero moment and have followed it up with wins in 2013/14 and last season. No City manager has won it twice, those three titles coming under Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola.

They aren’t unbeatable but you have to go back to 30th January to find their last defeat. They were, incredibly, beaten 2-1 at Newcastle after taking a first minute lead. I think it’s fair to say they’ve recovered from that loss; they’ve won all eleven games since in which they’ve only conceded three4 goals. And yet, despite this run, they are two points behind Liverpool although they will win the league if they win all their remaining games.

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There last win was at Old Trafford on Wednesday night in the Manchester derby. It was a comfortable 2-0 victory with the goals scored by Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sané.

They will go into tomorrow’s game without Kevin de Bruyne who has had an injury plagued season. Fernandinho is also a doubt although they do expect Ilkay Gündogan (pictured) to recover from the injury he picked up at Old Trafford.

Their team in that game was: Ederson, Kyle Walker, Vincent Kompany, Aymeric Laporte, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ilkay Gündogan, Fernandinho, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Sergio Agüero, Raheem Sterling. Subs: Arijanet Muric, Danilo, Nicolás Otamendi, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sané, Gabriel Jesus.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

In what was a fantastic season, we’d just hit a sticky patch, mainly because of a large number of games against the top six, but when City came to the Turf we hadn’t won in eight league games and we’d lost the three previous home fixtures against Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester United.

They’d all been tough games, although we were unfortunate to lose the Liverpool game and United were only able to beat us 1-0. The City game was going to be the most difficult of the lot although Pep Guardiola was concerned at their injury list and only named four substitutes.

We were without Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Robbie Brady and Chris Wood while Steven Defour was ruled out for the first time at home. Aaron Lennon made his home debut.

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City were the better side in the first half and led 1-0 at half time with a cracking goal from Danilo but we lost another player with Phil Bardsley forced off at half time.

The game nearly twisted both ways in a two minute period in the second half. Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson squared the ball from the left to Jack Cork who played in Lennon, only for Ederson to make a superb save via the woodwork to deny him. The woodwork wasn’t needed at the other end when Raheem Sterling missed what could only be described as a sitter. So, nearly 1-1 and then close to being 0-2. We took advantage.

We played some superb football during that second half and got our reward eight minutes from the end when Guðmundsson got ahead of Kyle Walker and onto a ball into the box from Lowton and finished with a superb volley.

It was an outstanding performance from the Clarets and although we had to wait another three games to finally get a win, we were well on our way to that seventh place finish.

The teams were;

Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley (Matt Lowton ht), Kevin Long, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Jeff Hendrick, Jack Cork, Aaron Lennon, Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Ashley Westwood, Aiden O’Neill, Scott Arfield, Georges-Kévin NKoudou, Nahki Wells.

Manchester City: Ederson, Kyle Walker, Vincent Kompany, Nicolás Otamendi, Danilo, Kevin de Bruyne, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gündogan, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling (Brahim Diaz 74), Sergio Agüero. Subs not used: Claudio Bravo, Aymeric Laporte, Tosin Adarabioyo, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Yaya Touré.

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