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Just over a month ago, previewing the Leicester City home game, I wrote about the negativity that had surrounded us following four successive defeats.  We were still 15th in the table but had dropped to what had to be a concerning lead of only four points above the bottom three.

It’s been one of those seasons where we’ve had difficult runs and better runs. We recently, just ahead of that Leicester game, had suffered four successive Premier League defeats. Since, in what looked a very difficult set of fixtures, we’ve picked up ten points out of twelve which, it is fair to say, has moved us into a much more comfortable position in the table.

That Leicester game didn’t start well. We fell a goal behind but came back to win 2-1 and then followed it up with that historic win against Manchester United at Old Trafford.  Then came the draw at home when we could so easily have beaten Arsenal, followed by last week’s win at Southampton, our second Premier League victory at St. Mary’s.

The season is just about two thirds of the way through and I think we would very definitely have accepted a points total of 34 at this stage, but we need to keep going, we need more points, firstly to ensure we don’t drop back down towards that bottom three, and then to see how far we can push this season in terms of position, and please note, right now, given the way the season has gone, I’m not even considering Europe although, like all Burnley fans, I’d love another go at it.

When we won at Bournemouth in December, it was a third successive victory against them at Premier League level. Another win tomorrow would equal the best run against one team which was the four successive victories we picked up against Hull, doing the double over them in both the 2009/10 and 2014/15 seasons.

Just looking back at the last few weeks, there has been a lot to be pleased with and nothing more than the ten points. They’ve come with some very impressive performances too and just looking at the last week, how good has it been for our club?

We won that game at Southampton which thrust Matěj Vydra into the spotlight with his extended time on the pitch which saw him score the winner. And then, in the last two days we’ve seen interviews with one current player Ashley Westwood and one former player Steven Defour. James Ducker interviewed Westwood for the Daily Telegraph while Andy Jones, the Burnley correspondent for the Athletic, spoke to Defour. Both spoke so highly about our club and the fantastic team spirit we have.

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Dwight McNeil, who made his debut as a late substitute in the Bournemouth home game two seasons ago, has also spoken about the togetherness within the group ahead of tomorrow’s game when he is expected to make his 49th Premier League appearance. Two more appearances and he’ll become the twentieth player to make fifty Premier League appearances in a Burnley shirt with just six of those players having reached three figures.

McNeil has settled in so well and he said: “I don’t think my mentality has changed from playing in the under-23s to playing in the first team,” and speaking about the number of appearances he’s made, he added: “I didn’t expect to play as many games as I have this year, but I’m happy that I have and hopefully I can keep the performances going and keep playing well. I didn’t expect it at the start of the season, but now looking at it that’s my aim, to be part of every game going into the final day.”

McNeil will play tomorrow and I think the line up will be dependent on the fitness of Chris Wood. Vydra came on for him last week at Southampton and that was the only substitution . We know that Matt Lowton and Ashley Barnes remain out injured and we know that Ben Gibson is still breathing in the smog at Middlesbrough although we do have some good news with Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson fully fit and back in the squad.

I think Wood will play if passed fit but I suspect he won’t make it. If he doesn’t, Vydra will play and if so it will be just his second Premier League home start for us, the other coming in the same fixture last season.

If Wood is out, I expect our team to be: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez, Matěj Vydra. Subs: Joe Hart, Kevin Long, Erik Pieters, Josh Brownhill, Aaron Lennon, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Robbie Brady.

Bournemouth arrive at the Turf having won two of their last three games. Prior to that they’d had a wretched time since beating Manchester United at home at the beginning of November with their only win coming at Chelsea a week before we went to Bournemouth and won 1-0.

They ended that difficult run with home wins against Brighton and Aston Villa but we were beaten on the road last time out at Sheffield United on the first weekend of the split games. Manager Eddie Howe has suggested their away form needs to improve. They currently sit 16th in the league and if it was based on home results only they would still be 16th as they would if it were based on away results.

They have won three times on the road, that’s just once less than us. They beat Aston Villa and Southampton in the early weeks of the season before that win at Chelsea in November. Their only other point away came in a draw at Watford.

That 16th place currently sees them one point ahead of Aston Villa and two points above both West Ham and Watford who are currently in the relegation positions with Norwich who have some catching up to do. A defeat tomorrow could see them drop into the bottom three while a win could take them up one place depending on Brighton’s result.

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They are still without some players through injury and that list includes David Brooks. He’s been out since the summer but Howe has reported that he’s just had his best week  although he’s not close to returning.

Lloyd Kelly, Charlie Daniels, Chris Mepham and Arnaut Danjuma remain unavailable but they do have Jefferson Lerma back following suspension while Josh King is available after returning via the bench in the last game.

That last game at Bramall Lane ended in a 2-1 defeat after they’d led 1-0 with a Callum Wilson goal. He too has had injury problems this season but is their leading goalscorer with eight goals, ahead of Harry Wilson (pictured above in the game at Sheffield United), who is on loan from Liverpool, who has six goals.

They lined up at Sheffield United: Aaron Ramsdale, Adam Smith, Simon Francis, Nathan Aké, Diego Rico, Harry Wilson, Philip Billing, Andrew Surman, Dan Gosling, Ryan Fraser, Callum Wilson. Subs: Artur Boruc, Steve Cook, Josh King, Dominic Solanke, Lewis Cook, Jack Stacey, Junior Stanislas.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

There was a big gap between the two teams when we last met at Turf Moor in what was our third home game of last season. Bournemouth arrived in 5th place with ten points from their opening five games; we were bottom of the league with our solitary point having come at Southampton on the opening day of the season before we suffered four successive defeats.

We were in desperate need of a good result and we got it with what was, and still is, our biggest ever win in the Premier League. The 4-0 win was our biggest in the top flight since we’d beaten Nottingham Forest 5-0 in February 1970 and on that occasion we sacked manager Harry Potts a couple of days later.

Sean Dyche made three changes from the team beaten at Wolves. Out went Phil Bardsley, Jeff Hendrick and Ashley Barnes; their replacements were Matt Lowton, Ashley Westwood and, making his first league start for us, Matěj Vydra.

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We started well with Aaron Lennon and Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson causing real threats down the flanks, but we had to wait until six minutes before half time to take the lead and it came from Vydra who got onto the ball to finish after two Westwood shots had been blocked.

Two minutes later and the lead was doubled. Lowton and Guðmundsson who crossed. Sam Vokes took defenders out of the way for Lennon to come in at the back post and open his Burnley account.

Bournemouth tried to get back into things in the second half but, one Joe Hart save apart, didn’t really threaten a goal and in the last seven minutes we added two more from substitute Barnes to complete the big win and both owed so much to Lennon.

For the first of them he pulled it back for Guðmundsson whose shot was came off the post with Barnes there to score from the rebound. James Tarkowski headed the ball out for Westwood on the right wing and he played the ball down for Lennon who burst through at some pace. Barnes met his ball back and fired home to get his second.

A win at last, and another a week later, but it would be some time later before we really started to hit any form.

The teams were;

Burnley: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Aaron Lennon, Matěj Vydra (Chris Wood 60), Sam Vokes (Ashley Barnes 69). Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Jeff Hendrick, Dwight McNeil.

Bournemouth: Asmir Begovic, Adam Smith (Jermain Defoe 78), Steve Cook, Nathan Aké, Diego Rico (Simon Francis ht), David Brooks, Andrew Surman, Jefferson Lerma, Ryan Fraser, Josh King, Callum Wilson (Junior Stanislas 68). Subs not used: Artur Boruc, Tyrone Mings, Lewis Cook, Jordon Ibe.

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