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Friday, 13th March 2020, a day that started with us potentially looking forward to a trip to the Etihad Stadium on the following day but a day that saw the Premier League suspend the season because of the ever worsening situation over the COVID-19 virus.

The game was finally played 100 days later than first scheduled and was our first game behind closed doors. Tomorrow will see our 21st league and cup game played without a crowd and this will be the first fixture to be played in such a way on two occasions.

My previous two visits to the Etihad, for league and FA Cup games in the previous season, had seen us lose 5-0 and last season, with no one there, the scoreline was no different, so I suppose it is fair to say there is room for improvement tomorrow.

Quite often, when I’ve seen Burnley go on, shall we say, disappointing runs, we’ve usually gone and won two or three once out of it. Back in 1979/80, for example, we didn’t win a game until 24th November, one day later than this season, but then went on a run that saw us win five out of seven.

Steve Cotterill has been in the news today, becoming manager of Shrewsbury. Some will talk about him battling the odds with small squads and little money, others will point to a run that saw us go 18 league games without a win. When we did, beating Plymouth, we won three on the run and five out of six.

So, having beaten Crystal Palace, what do the fixtures do? They send us to Manchester City where we have lost the knack of picking up a point as we did in our first two Premier League seasons. Our last six games have all ended in defeat. We’ve scored twice in those games, Ben Mee scoring in the 2-1 defeat in January 2017 and Ashley Barnes in the FA Cup a season later. We’ve conceded the grand total of 24 goals with Sergio Agüero scoring six of them.

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That’s what we are up against tomorrow but we go there with at least the confidence of a win behind us and Dwight McNeil who celebrated his 21st birthday recently said: “Going to City is a challenge I think everyone enjoys for seeing where you’re at and where you are compared with other players like they’ve got.

“We know they’re a top team but we’ve just to focus on ourselves and take what we do into the game. We know how hard it is, but like you’ve seen this season in the Premier League, anything can happen.”

Since coming into the team for the West Ham game right at the end of 2018, Dwight has started every league game since bar the away defeat at Everton right at the end of the 2018/19 season when he came on as a substitute.  The first player to come through the youth system and start a first team league game since Jay Rodriguez, he’ll be making his 69th Premier League appearance tomorrow.

We still have some injury problems. Jack Cork continues his rehab, Dale Stephens is again ruled out for a third successive game while Robbie Brady’s wretched run continues. He came on as a substitute against Palace but was soon forced off with another injury although I understand it is not a serious one and he should be available soon.

Nick Pope made an astonishing save right at the end of Monday’s game to preserve our lead but it may well have cost him his place and this could be the first Premier League game he’s missed since winning back his place at the beginning of last season.

He took a blow to the head, a total accident, but it is expected to keep him out. That will mean a league debut for Bailey Peacock-Farrell. He has played a couple of League Cup games for us, at Millwall and against tomorrow’s opponents, he’s also played a good number of internationals for Northern Ireland, but he hasn’t played league football since lining up for Leeds against Millwall in a Championship game at the end of March 2019.

He had an outstanding game against City in the League Cup, he’s looked good for his country, and I don’t think we should have any worries him stepping up, probably less than we had when Nick Pope was forced into action just over three years ago following an injury to Tom Heaton.

I’m expecting our team tomorrow to be: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Chris Wood, Jay Rodriguez. Subs from: Will Norris, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Jimmy Dunne, Erik Pieters, Josh Benson, Ashley Barnes, Matěj Vydra.

This is difficult to believe but Manchester City currently sit in 14th place in the premier League with 12 points from eight games and with a minus goal difference. It does take some believing for one of the very best teams in the country.

Nothing looked untoward when they won their opening game at Wolves even though the 3-1 scoreline was somewhat flattering with Wolves giving it a real go until City got a stoppage time third. Six days later they were involved in an astonishing first home game of the season. They were beaten 5-2 by Leicester for whom three of their goals were from the penalty spot. Those penalties came in a 51 minute period; we don’t tend to get that many penalties in that number of games.

They haven’t been beaten at home since. They beat Arsenal 1-0 and then, last time out at home, they drew with Liverpool, the team who took the title from them last season.

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The goals for column only shows ten, considerably more than our total of four, but there are goals all over this team and as Pep Guardiola has said, goals will come. Let’s hope it is not tomorrow.

Guardiola’s one problem tomorrow is who to select with every member of his squad now available. Sergio Agüero (pictured above) is back while Nathan Aké, having swapped relegated Bournemouth for City in the summer, is fit to return.

City’s most recent game in the Premier League was a 2-0 defeat at Spurs when they lined up: Ederson, Kyle Walker, Rúben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, João Cancelo, Kevin de Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Torres. Subs: Zack Steffen, John Stones, Eric García, Ilkay Gündogan, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Agüero.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

June 25th, and we were the last team to play behind closed doors with most of the news coming from the manager before the game. Able to name nine substitutes, he named just seven and that included two goalkeepers, neither of whom had played first team football at Burnley while three of the five outfield players were also without any first team action.

Dyche was angry. He was without Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Robbie Brady, Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood through injury but there was no sign of any of Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Jeff Hendrick or Aaron Lennon who were, by then, coming out of contract. The manager was hitting out at the chairman who spent the evening sat watching hiding behind a mask.

I think he might have been better covering his eyes with the mask as we continued our recent run there by conceding five goals. Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez both scored twice while the brilliant David Silva was also on the scoresheet.

There’s not too much I’d like to write about this game again so I’ll use this space to moan the departure of David Silva who I thought was an absolutely fantastic footballer. Much has been said of him as a man too and what a moment after the final whistle when he went over to young Max Thompson who had come on as a substitute for us right at the end of the game.

The teams were;

Manchester City: Ederson, João Cancelo, Nícolas Otamendi, Fernandinho (Aymeric Laporte 61), Aleksandr Zinchenko, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, David Silva, Riyad Mahrez (Kevin de Bruyne 61), Sergio Agüero (Gabriel Jesus 45+3), Phil Foden (Leroy Sané 79). Subs not used: Scott Carson, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Ilkay Gündogan, Raheem Sterling.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez (Erik Pieters 60), Matěj Vydra (Max Thompson 88). Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Lukas Jensen, Kevin Long, Bobby Thomas, Jimmy Dunne.

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