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Burnley go into tomorrow’s game against Sheffield United at Turf Moor looking for a third successive Premier League win following the 1-0 victories against Watford and Crystal Palace.

If we do win the game, it will be the first time we’ve won three together this season; the last time it happened was virtually a year ago in football terms when we beat Wolves, Bournemouth and Cardiff in games 32 to 34.

One thing we do know for certain is that, no matter what happens between now and the end of the season, we’ll kick off 2020/21 still in the Premier League. It became a mathematical certainty this afternoon when Bournemouth crashed to a 5-2 defeat at Manchester United. With Watford’s 3-0 loss at Chelsea tonight we don’t even need to check all the fixtures; they can’t catch us either.

To be safe with six games to go is a remarkable achievement and already we’ve easily recorded our second best season in the Premier League; we now sit just nine points behind the 2017/18 total so who knows?

We came out of the Crystal Palace game last Monday in eighth place in the table. but Arsenal and tomorrow’s opponents Sheffield United have both since gone above us. Arsenal have, in fact, won twice in the last five days which has taken them four points clear. A win tomorrow would take us back up to eighth for just over a day at least until Spurs play on Monday night.

It’s a big change from mid-January following the defeat at Chelsea. By the time that weekend was over we were only three points ahead of the drop zone. We’d just lost the previous four games and there was some real concern. It was nothing like the mess we were in at Christmas 2018 but it has still been a special period for us with 21 points won from the last ten games.

Some might say we’ve nothing left to play for and in some ways that might be the case although should the ban on Manchester City playing in Europe be upheld it would mean eighth in the table making it into the Europa League qualifiers whenever they will be.

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Sean Dyche will insist that there is much to play for and James Tarkowski, who has been part of the defence which has just kept successive clean sheets, said the players won’t be taking the easy option. “There’s no chance and the gaffer won’t let us do that,” he said. “He’s made a point of not letting us do that and as a group we’re not happy to do that. We want to go out there and win games.

“European football? We’ve been there once before and it’s something else we want to do. There are a few games to go but there are points to pick up, so we are looking forward to the start of this run in now.”

We’ve been playing with a very small squad and Tarky added: “We’ve lost a couple of great lads and great players and it’s not nice to see faces leave. But we’ve got to deal with the numbers we’ve got and hopefully a few lads will come back from injury, which will be nice.”

A few lads back from injury, now that would be a bonus for us given the small number of players we have had available. Jack Cork came off injured at Crystal Palace and I suspect he’ll be in the definitely out group for tomorrow’s game alongside Matt Lowton and Ashley Barnes.

It’s the situation with four others that’s intriguing – namely, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Robbie Brady, Jay Rodriguez and Chris Wood. Suggestions from the manager was that they were all close, although later reports from the club suggested that Wood was doubtful and that Brady had suffered a knock. The one concern was lack of game time for some of them.

If all four are considered fit enough to be involved, I suspect that Rodriguez, who has just missed the one game, will come straight back in. Wood hasn’t played since the resumption having scored our last goal before the shutdown. Brady last played a couple of weeks before that but Guðmundsson hasn’t been seen in a claret and blue shirt since the FA Cup tie against Peterborough in early January.

Hopefully, Guðmundsson will make it and that would allow us to line up: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez, Matěj Vydra. Subs from: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Lukas Jensen, Kevin Long, Jimmy Dunne, Bobby Thomas, Erik Pieters, Mace Goodridge, Robbie Brady, Chris Wood, Max Thompson.

I think this has proved to be another good season for the Clarets but it has very definitely been a good season for Sheffield United. Promoted last season, some thought they would be the ones most likely to struggle but, while Aston Villa are in trouble and Norwich look all but down, they’ve an outstanding first season back in the Premier League and currently sit two places and two points ahead of us.

They are a real threat away from home too. Prior to lockdown, only Manchester City and Liverpool had been able to claim home wins against them but the number of away defeats has doubled since the resumption with first Newcastle and then Manchester United both recording 3-0 wins against them.

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Prior to that they’d picked up a point from a 0-0 draw at Aston Villa which was the first game to be played on restart. That should have been a win, and would have been had the goal line technology been working.

They went out of the FA Cup last weekend but two days ago they finally got off the mark with a 3-1 home win against Spurs although this game was marred with VAR controversy. Having gone 1-0 up through Sander Berge, Spurs immediately equalised through Harry Kane only for the goal to be disallowed for the most farcical of handballs. By the time Kane scored a goal that counted it was stoppage time and by then Sheffield United had added further goals through Lys Mousset and Ollie McBurnie.

Chris Wilder also has injury issues. All of John Lundstram, John Fleck and Luke Freeman are expected to be ruled out while the influential Jack O’Connell (pictured above), who has so far missed all the games since the restart, will be monitored having missed those games because of a knee problem.

Their team against Spurs was: Dean Henderson, Chris Basham, John Egan, Jack Robinson, George Baldock, Sander Berge, Oliver Norwood, Ben Osborn, Enda Stevens, Ollie McBurnie, David McGoldrick. Subs: Simon Moore, Phil Jagielka, Luke Freeman, Jack Rodwell, Lys Mousset, Richairo Živković, Billy Sharp.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

We’ve got to go back nine and a half years for Sheffield United’s last visit to Turf Moor. It was New Year’s Day 2011. We went into the game in 10th place in the Championship; Sheffield United, who we had beaten two years earlier in the play-off final at Wembley, were languishing in 20th place just two points above the drop zone.

The Blades were under new management. Gary Speed had left in mid-December to take over as Wales manager and two days before the fixture they had appointed Port Vale’s well travelled boss Micky Adams who would win just four of 24 games before returning to Port Vale in the summer.

Chris Eagles scored Burnley’s first goal

Significantly, we’d also made a change. Having lost the previous game against Scunthorpe, the axe had fallen on Brian Laws with Stuart Gray, who is now working with Scott Parker at Fulham, taking over as caretaker.

It proved to be Burnley’s day although it was Sheffield United who went in front just nine minutes in through Mark Yates. Chris Eagles equalised for the Clarets just before the half hour with a shot from fully 35 yards and then, in stoppage time at the end of the first half it turned our way when both Chris Iwelumo and Jay Rodriguez scored to give us a 3-1 interval lead.

We’d developed a habit of giving two goal leads away that season and when Michael Duff gave away a needless penalty just two minutes into the second half there were fears it would happen again, more so when Ched Evans converted the spot kick to get his side back into the game at 3-2.

But it was a Gray Day for the Clarets with Steven Thompson, on as a substitute, adding  fourth goal five minutes from time to lift us a couple of places in the table and within one point of the play-offs.

The teams were;

Burnley: Lee Grant, Tyrone Mears, Clarke Carlisle, Michael Duff, Brian Easton, Graham Alexander, Wade Elliott (David Edgar 90), Dean Marney, Chris Eagles, Chris Iwelumo (Steven Thompson 80), Jay Rodriguez. Subs not used: Brian Jensen, Andre Bikey, Jack Cork, Ross Wallace, John Guidetti.

Sheffield United: Richard Wright (Steve Simonsen ht), Jean Calve, Nyron Nosworthy (Elian Parrino ht), Matt Lowton, Johnny Ertl, Lee WIlliamson (Daniel Bogdanovic 72), Mark Yeates, Leon Britton, Richard Cresswell, Ched Evans, Jamie Ward. Subs not used: Rob Kozluk, Kingsley James, Jordan Slew, Matty Harriott.

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