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Having beaten Aston Villa last week at home, we weren’t able to continue the sort of form we showed in the second half against Chelsea last Sunday and having lost that game 2-0 we return home and it couldn’t be much tougher than league leaders Manchester City.

I spotted something on the message board ahead of the Liverpool game expressing some concern that we could lose the next four games and that was immediately after defeats against Manchester United and West Ham. Those four games  were Liverpool, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Manchester City. We’ve already picked up six points from them and whichever way you look at it, that’s a good return.

It’s left us on 22 points from 20 games and we currently sit 15th in the table. Were we to get any sort of result tonight we could go no higher. Wolves are closest to us as we look up; they have 26 points and then it’s Crystal Palace, Leeds and Southampton who all have 29 points.

Defeat, however, would guarantee us dropping one place behind Newcastle on goal difference but we would still have an eight point advantage on Fulham although they would have a game in hand which they will play later this evening at Leicester.

For those concerned about relegation, and until we reach a point where we can’t go down then there have to be such concerns, I was asked again last night how many points I thought would be required. Last season it needed 35 points but it has to be said the bottom three were some way ahead of the current points total at this stage for those in the relegation places.

I suspect 34 points might be enough which would require us winning another four games, but please don’t hold me to that and I would like a few more points in any case. The sooner we get up around thirty then we can look at things more realistically.

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As for tonight, it will be tough, something central defender James Tarkowski agrees with. “We know it’s going to be tough, he said. “They’re top of the league, unbeaten in quite a few games, but we’ll look forward to the prospect of taking them on.

“I always expected it (their run of results). They’ve got a terrific squad and for us they’re the most difficult team we play against .We’re in for a real test but hopefully we can turn up ourselves, put in a good performance and cause them a few problems of their own, and look to be positive against them  rather than just worry about what they’re going to do.”

Tarkowski has once again formed a superb partnership with Ben Mee since the pair returned from injuries that kept them out at the beginning of the season. We have a number of injuries ahead of tonight’s game but nothing reported on either of them so they should be ready to continue that partnership.

Charlie Taylor, Josh Brownhill and Ashley Barnes were all missing at Chelsea. Brownhill had come off at half time against Villa, a game the other two missed. We’ve added to that. Both Chris Wood and Robbie Brady were forced off at Chelsea and the hints from the manager are that none of them will feature although thankfully none of them have serious injuries.

If they are messing, the team could be: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez, Matěj Vydra. Subs: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Jimmy Dunne, Anthony Glennon, Dale Stephens, Josh Benson, Anthony Gomez Mancini, Joel Mumbongo.

City – now where do we start? They were ninth in the table in mid-December having drawn successive games against  local rivals Manchester United and then struggling West Brom. At that time you probably wouldn’t have considered they were title contenders even though they’d only lost twice.

The first of those two defeats was in an incredible first home game of the season against Leicester. They were beaten 5-2 on a day when referee Michael Oliver awarded Leicester three penalties, that’s the same number in one game as we’ve had in the Premier League since November 2019.

They were then beaten at Spurs in November , that coming a week before they beat us at the Etihad. Since then, the only points they’ve dropped have been in the two draws referred to above and since those draws they have won eight successive Premier League games in which they have scored 19 goals while conceding just one when Callum Hudson-Odoi scored a consolation stoppage time goal in City’s 3-1 win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

I know they won’t be at full strength tonight with the absence of players such as Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Agüero but they will still have an outstanding team lining up against us no matter who Pep Guardiola selects. The only other player ruled out is Nathan Aké.

Are we expected to get anything from the game? No is the honest answer. The last time we did was exactly three years ago today when Guðmundsson scored an 82nd minute equaliser for us to give us a 1-1 draw.

City beat Sheffield United 1-0 in their most recent game. Their team was: Ederson, Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gündogan, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Ferran Torres, Gabriel Jesus. Subs: Zack Steffen, John Stones, Raheem Sterling, Rodrigo, Benjamin Mendy, Riyad Mahrez, João Cancelo, Eric García, Adrián Bernabé.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

When they arrived at Burnley last season, although they didn’t have a bad record, they had never gone to town against us in the Sean Dyche era in games at the Turf. In the four previous visits we’d won one, drawn one and the two defeats had both been by just one goal.

Last season was different. We did get to half time at just 1-0 down through Gabriel Jesus but they took control in the second half as Jesus added a second with Rodri making it 3-0 with an outstanding striker and there were still over twenty minutes remaining.

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Close to the end it was four through Riyad Mahrez before Robbie Brady scored a consolation goal, his first since suffering the serious knee injury at Leicester two years and one day previously.

With City playing well, it proved to be a difficult night for us when Danny Drinkwater started and ended his Premier League Burnley career. He started the game but was replaced by Ashley Barnes on 59 minutes and we never saw him again.

The teams were;

Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon, Danny Drinkwater (Ashley Barnes 59), Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil (Robbie Brady 75), Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood (Jay Rodriguez 59). Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Ben Gibson, Matěj Vydra.

Manchester City: Ederson, Kyle Walker, Nicolas Otamendi, Fernandinho (Eric García 85), Angeliño, Kevin de Bruyne (Phil Foden 80), Rodrigo, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling (Riyad Mahrez 72). Subs not used: Claudio Bravo, John Stones, Benjamin Mendy, João Cancelo.

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