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It’s been some time since we won 2-1 at Middlesbrough to clinch our promotion back to the Premier League, eighteen weeks to be exact, but finally we are back and ready to play our first game back and it couldn’t be more difficult with Manchester City, last season’s treble winners, our opponents tonight at the Turf.

I was thinking back to the day when Newcastle beat us to bring to an end six successive seasons in the Premier League, wondering whether we would ever get back there but back we are after the most incredible of seasons when we simply walked away with the Championship and reached 101 points in doing so.

There was a time when I was acutely jealous of clubs like Barnsley, Bradford City, Oldham and Swindon who had all enjoyed their moments in the sun of the league that came into being in 1992, just as we had finally climbed out of the Fourth Division.

Our moment in that sun came in 2009 with the play-off win against Sheffield United at Wembley but, of course, like Barnsley and Swindon, it was just for a year and back we were in the Championship.

Things changed in 2013. The club made the first of what proved to be superb managerial appointments with the arrival of Sean Dyche and who is to say that Vincent Kompany won’t prove to be an even better one. Between them, in the last ten years, they have given us three automatic promotions from the Championship, two of them as champions, and seven Premier League seasons with an eighth to kick off tonight.

You really do have to pinch yourself sometimes. Ours is not some huge club based in one of the biggest cities in the country. We are Burnley, a club that has in the past done better than you could ever imagine and is doing so again, right now.

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So it’s back to playing against the big boys and in today’s football, they don’t come much bigger than tonight’s opponents Manchester City. While we were winning the Championship last season, they just managed to pick up the Premier League title, the FA Cup and the Champions League last season.

For a second successive season we kick off the league. A year ago it was at Huddersfield and now, back in the Premier League, it’s City and it is a night that club captain Jack Cork is relishing although he knows we’ve been given the most difficult of first games.

“There is no good time to play them,” he said. “You know how good they are, but if we can catch them at the start of the season, then it would be amazing.

“The mood around the place is good. Everyone’s happy and we worked really hard to get here. It’s one of the best leagues in the world and it’s just what everyone wanted to do last year.”

He added: “We’ve had a good pre-season, some tough games and now on Friday night on the first game of the season against the current champions who won the treble last year, there’s no better game for us.”

Cork, on the current squad, said: “If you look at the players when we did get relegated, the age of the squad was probably average early 30s, late 20s. Now the club has gone in the direction where they are trying to bring the age down. But, at the same time, you still do need a lot of experienced people in the club. We saw that last year with people like myself, Barnesy, Jay, Jóhann. You need these older heads to be able to show the younger lads, who aren’t used to English football and used to leagues like the Championship.”

Last season, I ended the idea of trying to second guess the manager’s team selection and I don’t think there is any chance for tonight’s game. All we do know is that both Josh Cullen and Manuel Benson must be doubts given that they’ve not figured recently in pre-season.

What we do know is that Kompany has added to his squad with ten new signings, including those of Jordan Beyer and Michael Obafemi who had been with us on loan last season.

Those new signings are:

Jordan Beyer – Borussia Möenchengladbach
Michael Obafemi – Swansea
Dara O’Shea – West Brom
Lawrence Vigouroux – Leyton Orient
Zeki Amdouni – Basel
James Trafford – Manchester City
Nathan Redmond – Beşiktaş
Luca Koleosho – Espanyol
Jacob Bruun Larsen – TSG Hoffenheim
Sander Berge – Sheffield United

Some of those players could be set for their Burnley debuts tonight.

Our opponents Manchester City don’t need any introduction at all. They are the best team in England. You sometimes wonder when big players leave, whether they will be able to continue at the same level, but Vincent Kompany went, then the brilliant David Silva and the Sergio Agüero. It’s made no difference; they’ve probably even improved since those players left.

Premier League champions in each of the last three seasons, they too have added to their squad with the signings of Mateo Kovacic (pictured below) and Josko Gvardiol from Chelsea and RB Leipzig respectively.

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They have played one competitive game this season, if the Community Shield can be considered competitive. They were beaten in a penalty shootout last Sunday by Arsenal after a 1-1 draw with Cole Palmer scoring the City goal.

Their team last week was: Stefan Ortega, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Rúben Dias, Manuel Akanji, Rodri, Mateo Kovacic, Bernardo Silva, Julian Álvarez, Jack Grealish, Erling Haaland. Subs: Ederson, Kalvin Phillips, Aymeric Laporte, Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Gómez, Phil Foden, Cole Palker, Rico Lewis, James McAtee.


Last Time They Were Here


Manchester City’s most recent game at Burnley came at the beginning of April last year with the Clarets kicking off the game in 18th place in the Premier League. City had just gone back to the top of the league.

It didn’t take City too long to go in front although Josh Brownhill had gone close with a header. Then, Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne linked up down the right with the latter making no mistake with a shot with only five minutes gone.

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City looked too good for us and midway through the first half they doubled their advantage. Again, Sterling was involved. This time he got down the right wing before crossing low for Ilkay Gündogan to score although the ball did take a deflection off Kevin Long.

We were so close to pulling one back on the hour. Wout Weghorst headed on an Ashley Westwood free kick for Maxwel Cornet who headed towards goal. Nathan Aké cleared off the line with Burnley adamant that it had crossed the line. It mattered not, the assistant’s flag had gone up for offside.

It was a much improved second half but we never really looked as though we’d get back into the game, that one incident apart.

The teams were;

Burnley: Nick Pope, Connor Roberts, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Charlie Taylor, Aaron Lennon, Josh Brownhill, Jack Cork (Jay Rodriguez 71), Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil (Maxwel Cornet ht), Wout Weghorst (Ashley Barnes 81). Subs not used: Wayne Hennessey, Will Norris, Matt Lowton, Bobby Thomas, Owen Dodgson, Dale Stephens.

Manchester City: Ederson, Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Aké, João Cancelo, Kevin de Bruyne (Bernardo Silva 78), Rodri, Ilkay Gündogan, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden (Gabriel Jesus 64), Jack Grealish. Subs not used: Zack Steffen, John Stones, Conrad Egan-Riley, Luke Mbete, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Riyad Mahrez.

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