Saints are first 2017 visitors
After games at Manchester City and Sunderland this month, Burnley will finally get 2017 underway at home tomorrow with the visit of Southampton in the Premier League.
It’s the first of two home games in four days with the FA Cup replay against Sunderland to come on Tuesday and it gives us an opportunity to get our points total moving again after the recent defeat at the Etihad when Manchester City completed a fortunate double over us.
With twenty games played we are 12th in the table with 23 points. That’s just one point behind Stoke and the South coast pair of Bournemouth and tomorrow’s opponents Southampton. I suppose that currently makes us a mid-table club in the Premier League and I don’t think you would find too many Burnley fans who would not be happy with that.
Having said that, it wouldn’t take too many disappointing results to see us drop back down towards the bottom clubs although there is some breathing space between us and the bottom three where Sunderland and Swansea both have 15 points with Hull in bottom place with 13 points.
We’ve won seven of our home games so far. That’s comfortably more than we won two seasons ago and has now equalled the total of home wins we obtained in the 2009/10 season when we got off to a good start, winning the first four at Turf Moor.
Striker Andre Gray played a pivotal role in the home double over the festive season, scoring the only goal in the win against Middlesbrough on Boxing Day and then netting a hat trick on New Year’s Eve in the 4-1 win against Sunderland, repeating his feat of a year earlier.
It was a return to goalscoring for Gray who had scored just once previously in what has been an interrupted season. He said himself: “It’s been a bit of an up-down season so far but I feel leading up to the Christmas period I’ve settled back into the team and got used to the quality of the Premier League and feel like I’m adapting better as the games go on.
“There’s still a long way to go and still a lot of work on but I feel I can compete at this level and scoring a hat trick has helped that confidence.”
With Gray scoring goals it will certainly make us a better side and he added: “We’ve got the base now and we know we can compete in this league and compete pretty well, and that’s what we need to keep doing.
“We are here to do a job. People will say the first thing to do is stay up. We are on course to do that, but we know there is still a long way to go.”
Much was made by the media of the gap between Andre’s goal against Liverpool in August and his next to win that game against Middlesbrough but he’s made just twelve starts in which he’s scored five times and for those who think football started in 1992, he’s only six short of the record in a Premier League season for Burnley currently held by Danny Ings.
It’s good to have Andre fit and available again after his difficult start to the season, but not everyone is fit and it looks almost certain that we’ll have to go into the game without the services of either Scott Arfield or Johann Berg Gudmundsson, both of whom suffered hamstring injuries in the draw at Sunderland. It’s a blow, particularly for Gudmundsson who has only recently returned from a similar injury sustained in the home game against Manchester City.
On the positive side, we have players returning. Both George Boyd and Jon Flanagan were unavailable last week with knocks while Patrick Bamford was unwell. All three are back and available tomorrow as is Ashley Barnes who took a knock during his short substitute appearance.
The big question is who will play in the wide positions normally occupied by two of Arfield, Boyd and Gudmundsson. Boyd will certainly occupy one of them with the potential for Michael Kightly to step in on the other side or potentially play with Jeff Hendrick wide as we did in the closing stages in the cup at the Stadium of Light.
Kightly is not a regular in the side. He started the first two games of 2016, the last of which was the 5-0 win at MK, but his only start since was in the 2-1 home win against Everton. I suspect Sean Dyche will start without him but have him on the bench as an option.
We could line up: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Steven Defour, George Boyd, Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray. Subs from: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Joey Barton, Aiden O’Neill, Michael Kightly, Patrick Bamford, Sam Vokes.
Southampton are now enjoying a fifth successive season in the Premier League and are currently under their fourth manager during that period. Nigel Adkins took them up but was quickly dispensed with to allow them to bring in Mauricio Pochettino.
When he moved to Spurs, in came Ronald Koeman and his defection to Everton in the summer saw Frenchman Claude Puel, who’d enjoyed seventeen years of management in his homeland, become the new man in charge.
He took over a club that was very much on the up. After finishing 14th in their first season back they’ve gone on to end the next three seasons in 8th, 7th and 6th positions and have this season again been involved in the Europa League, beating Inter Milan in their group but finishing third with Sparta Prague winning it.
In the Premier League, they went into Christmas in 7th place with 24 points from their 17 games but the festive programme wasn’t good for them. They lost successive home games against Tottenham and West Brom and were then beaten on New Year’s Day Bank Holiday at Everton and that’s left them in 10th place, just one point above us.
One of their problems has been the loss of former Claret Charlie Austin. As you would expect he was among the goals and he’d already reached nine, with six in the league, including two against us in our 3-1 defeat at St. Mary’s. But he’s suffered another shoulder injury that will keep him out for some time.
Behind him in the scoring chart are Nathan Redmond and Jay Rodriguez with three goals each. Redmond got the other goal against us while the name Rodriguez, or Jay Rod, is better known to us than Charlie.
Jay is an almost certain starter for the Saints and will be playing against us on the Turf for the first time. He’s played against us twice down there as a substitute. He came on in the 2014 FA Cup tie for Rickie Lambert and scored their third in a 4-3 win for them and recently, in this season’s league game, replaced Austin. It’s hard to believe but it is as long ago as March 2012 when he last started a game at the Turf. It was a 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace and he gave us the lead from the penalty spot after two minutes. It proved to be his last goal for us. Only Ben Mee and Dean Marney remain at Burnley from the team that played on that occasion.
Southampton have no injury worries but they do have their own version of Jason Shackell or, if we are keeping up to date, Dimitri Payet. Jose Fonte won’t feature after submitting a transfer request. The 33-year-old Portuguese defender has been with Southampton for seven year, arriving from Crystal Palace in January 2010, and has won two promotions with them. Puel has made it clear that he will not feature this month while his future remains in doubt. He said: “I prefer for Jose to stay out of the team, to leave him to give him an opportunity and for us to stay focused on the players available in the team.”
The only other player who might have been unavailable is Steven Davis. He picked up a knock in the midweek win against Liverpool but looks as though he will be fit to continue. Puel though is certainly considering changes despite the win after three successive defeats.
He said: “To play exactly the same team is not possible for me. I don’t know for the moment if we go to make some more rotation, but it’s important first to see the recovery of the players.
“Every player is different. It was a strong game against Liverpool with a lot of rhythm because we didn’t have the possession in this game. It’s important to see the players if they can recover well. Every player is different. I will make a point, but for the moment I don’t know the rotation.”
Southampton’s team against Liverpool was: Fraser Forster, Ryan Bertrand, Cedric Soares, Maya Yoshida, Virgil van Dijk, Steven Davis, Oriol Romeu, Jordy Clasie, Jay Rodriguez, Dusan Tadic, Nathan Redmond. Subs: Pierre-Emile Hojberg, Sam McQueen, Josh Sims, Shane Long, Harry Lewis, Jack Stephens, James Ward-Prowse.
LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE
A week before Southampton visited us in December 2014, we’d lost 2-0 at QPR and dropped back to 19th in the Premier League, this after having gone four games without defeat prior to the trip to Loftus Road.
But a 1-0 win, courtesy of an Ashley Barnes goal seventeen minutes from time, lifted us back out of the relegation positions to that safe place of 17th. But Barnes wasn’t the only hero. Thirteen minutes earlier we’d conceded a penalty and owed everything to Tom Heaton who made a brilliant stop to his left to deny Dusan Tadic.
We’d been unfortunate to go in level at half time after being much the better side and that left concerns given we’d had games earlier in the season that ended in defeat when we hadn’t scored after dominating the first half.
And those concerns were justified when Southampton grabbed the initiative in the second half although they didn’t really cause Heaton too many problems. That was until the penalty, given away by George Boyd.
The penalty save was a real turning point. Suddenly there was more confidence both on and off the pitch and as the crowd lifted its support so the players took the game to the Saints once more.
Then came the goal. Danny Ings was quick to close down Nathaniel Clyne and block his pass. The ball found its way to Barnes and his shot was deflected in off Toby Alderweireld, leaving Fraser Forster helpless.
We didn’t really have to hang on either. Southampton gave it a go but other than a couple of shots wide they didn’t threaten an equaliser. It was a third win of the season for Burnley and back out of those dreaded relegation places.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Keane, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee (Danny Lafferty 74), George Boyd, Dean Marney, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Danny Ings, Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Kevin Long, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ross Wallace, Michael Kightly, Lukas Jutkiewicz.
Southampton: Fraser Forster, Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Toby Alderweireld, Ryan Bertrand, Victor Wanyama, Steven Davis, Dusan Tadic, Jake Hesketh (James Ward-Prowse 32), Sadio Mané (Shane Long 78), Graziano Pellè. Subs not used: Kelvin Davis, Maya Yoshida, Florin Gardos, Emmanuel Mayuka, Harry Reed.Follow UpTheClarets:
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