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With our home game against Leicester moved forward and then the international break we travel to Southampton tomorrow some 22 days since we last played a Premier League game, that the 2-1 win at Everton which lifted us to 33 points.

How many more points do we need? That’s the question that is constantly being asked and, as yet, we just don’t know the answer although the most any team has ever needed to stay up in any of the seasons we’ve been in the Premier League is 36 points and that was in the 2014/15 season when we fell short with 33. It’s definitely not guaranteed. West Ham once went down with 42 points and in 2011 both Blackpool and Birmingham were relegated despite winning 39 points each.

Sheffield United, beaten again today, look all but gone. They are 19 points behind us with just eight games remaining. West Brom sensationally won at Chelsea but even on 21 points, twelve behind us, it looks a very difficult task for them to get anywhere near us.

Fulham occupy the other relegation place right now and they are seven points behind us. They have still to travel to Chelsea and Manchester United of the top teams but, other than that, their fixtures are not the most difficult and they still have us, Southampton and Newcastle to play which will continue to give them some hope. They have, so far, won five times this season and would probably need to win half of their remaining games to give themselves a chance. That, I believe, puts us in a decent position although we can’t be complacent and we do still need to pick up a few more points should Fulham go on some sort of run.

It’s impossible to say what’s needed. Past seasons suggest a couple of points would do it but obviously we’d like a few more and, in any case, I want us to reach forty points at least for a fifth consecutive season.

It all kicks off again then at Southampton where we’ve won twice and drawn once in the last two seasons and we’ll be hoping to make it four unbeaten at St. Mary’s.

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Dutch international Erik Pieters was in the side at Everton, coming in for the injured Charlie Taylor who he’d come on for in the previous game at home against Arsenal. Looking forward to tomorrow’s game, Pieters said: “It’s important to go game to game and get the wins, especially against the people around us. I think that’s really important.”

Speaking about the win at Everton, he added: “It was massive to go into the international break. It’s really good to have that win and I think everyone is ready to continue this against Southampton. I fully trust in the team and our ability to perform and stay up. That’s how we are and that’s how our mentality is. I never doubted that fact.”

Sean Dyche suggested that the break would be good to get some of the injured players fit again. That’s been partially successful but we will still go into the game tomorrow without three players, two of whom were in the squad at Everton.

Kevin Long has been ruled out with the injury that kept him out of the recent Republic of Ireland games and Robbie Brady is out again having suffered a recurrence of his achilles injury in Ireland’s most recent game. That’s a big blow to him with the manager suggesting it will be a few weeks. The other player still out is Ashley Barnes who hasn’t played since he scored in the 1-1 draw against Fulham.

The good news is that the break has allowed both Taylor and Jack Cork to get themselves fit. While Taylor has only missed the one game this time, Cork hasn’t played in the last two having only just returned for a long term injury in late January.

I suspect that the returning pair might both be given places on the bench with Dyche opting to stick with the team that played at Everton. If so, we will line up: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Chris Wood, Matěj Vydra. Subs from: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Phil Bardsley, Jimmy Dunne, Richard Nartey, Charlie Taylor, Anthony Glennon, Dale Stephens, Jack Cork, Josh Benson, Jay Rodriguez, Lewis Richardson, Joel Mumbongo.

Southampton have had their injury problems recently but, like us, they seem to be getting back to full fitness with the returns of both Theo Walcott (pictured below) and Danny Ings considered crucial. Ings last played in the 2-0 win at Sheffield United four weeks ago but Walcott has been out since the end of January.

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The only injury problem they have is a minor injury for James Ward-Prowse that he picked up on England duty. Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl said he doesn’t believe it will keep him out. With his options, he said: “Yes, it may be the first time on this weekend in a long time I have some issues with sitting a few guys on the bench who normally deserve to play. It was the first time for really long, I think two or three months, that I have this issue now.

“To be honest, it feels better to have this issue than to have the other one where you don’t have anybody to play. This is definitely something that is good, that is helpful and it gives me more options.”

Southampton made an outstanding start to the season. They went top after beating Newcastle in early October and even when they won 1-0 against Liverpool in the first game of 2021 they were in sixth place. Things have changed since then with ten defeats in their last twelve games, the only win coming at Sheffield United with their one other point coming against Chelsea at home.

They were almost playing in a different league to us. It seemed for much of the first half of the season that they were battling for a European place with us fighting relegation but ahead of tomorrow’s game they now sit ahead of us courtesy of having scored more goals with us both on 33 points and both having a goal difference of minus 15.

Yes, they have scored considerably more goals than us, 36 in total compared to our 22 which means they’ve also conceded 14 more goals than us, nine of those coming against Manchester United at Old Trafford. They have three players who have scored more goals than our leading scorer Chris Wood. Both Ché Adams and James Ward-Prowse have seven while former Claret Ings can boast one more with eight.

Ings, I’m sure, will return tomorrow, but their team last time out, when they were beaten 5-2 by Manchester City, was: Alex McCarthy, Jan Bednarek, Jannik Vestergaard, Ryan Bertrand, Mohammed Salisu, Jack Stephens, Moussa Djenepo, Stuart Armstrong, James Ward-Prowse, Ché Adams, Nathan Redmond. Subs: Fraser Forster, Nathan Tella, Daniel N’Lundulu, Will Ferry, Kayne Ramsey, Kyle Walker-Peters, Caleb Watts, Ibrahima Diallo, Takumi Minamino.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

It was mid-February 2020 and an early kick off, as is tomorrow’s game, at Southampton. It was a day when Storm Dennis turned up to ensure a difficult journey, particularly on the return, but we came home with all three points from a 2-1 win without ever considering then that almost fourteen months later we’ve not had the opportunity to attend another Burnley away win.

With less than a minute gone we won a corner on the left which Ashley Westwood took. Over it came, Ben Mee turned it in and he wheeled away in celebration having given us the lead, or so he thought. The goal stood but it had already crossed the line directly from the corner with Danny Ings kindly standing aside to let it go through. It was Westwood’s goal and we were 1-0 up.

Southampton got into the game but hadn’t really threatened us too much until Ings more than made up for his mistake with an outstanding goal. It really was a superb effort with a right foot shot from just outside the box.

It was a double whammy. Before we could restart, Chris Wood needed lengthy treatment and a few minutes later the game finally restarted but with Wood withdrawn and replaced by Matěj Vydra. He might not have known it then but he was to grab the headlines.

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It remained at 1-1 up to half time but on the hour we won it with a goal every bit as good as Southampton’s, in fact better than their goal. Jeff Hendrick did really well to win the ball back around the half way line. He played a one-two with James Tarkowski before playing the ball up for Vydra.

The striker took the ball on his chest with his back to goal and turned. With no opening he nicked the ball past Kyle Walker-Peters before hitting a stunning left foot shot into the net that Alex McCarthy could do absolutely nothing about. Substitutes Aaron Lennon and Josh Brownhill pounced on him as he slid to the touchline and they were soon joined by virtually the whole team on the pitch.

If anything, we looked the more likely but they did get in a shot right at the end that Nick Pope saved and who was there to hook it away? Yes, Vydra.

At the final whistle, the players let him come over to the away fans first to take the applause, a fantastic gesture, and apparently he received another ovation when he got into the dressing room. It had been a long, long wait for his second Premier League goal for Burnley.

For Burnley, a second successive away win having won the previous one 2-0 at Manchester United and a points total of 34 with some twelve games to play and we’d moved up to tenth in the table.

The teams were;

Southampton: Alex McCarthy, Kyle Walker-Peters (Michael Obafemi 73), Jack Stephens, Jannik Vestergaard, Ryan Bertrand, Stuart Armstrong, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, James Ward-Prowse, Sofiane Boufal (Moussa Djenepo 39), Shane Long (Ché Adams 86), Danny Ings. Subs not used: Angus Gunn, Jan Bednarek, William Smallbone, Oriol Romeu.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez, Chris Wood (Matěj Vydra 22). Subs not used: Joe Hart, Kevin Long, Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon, Josh Brownhill, Robbie Brady.

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