Tour ends in the North East
It’s been a coastal tour of the UK over the last three weeks with games at Hull, Swansea, Liverpool and finally Sunderland where we play the last of four successive away games tomorrow afternoon.
Sunderland and ourselves have got somewhat used to playing each other. We met in the league on New Year’s Eve and then played each other in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, a tie that went to a Turf Moor replay after a 0-0 draw at Sunderland.
We’ve won both the home games against them and will now be looking to beat them away and in doing so get our first away win of the season (have I really mentioned that again?) which of course would also give us the double against them.
To do that we will have to record a first ever win at the Stadium of Light and should we win three points it will be our first league victory at Sunderland since Paul Fletcher scored in a 1-0 win at Roker Park in December 1972.
The three away games so far on this mini-tour have brought us one point. That came in the first of them at Hull, and a fully deserved point it was. We were a whisker away from matching that at Swansea although I think it is fair to say it might not have been deserved, but our performance last week against Liverpool at Anfield certainly warranted better than the 2-1 defeat we got.
“We’re in good shape,” Sean Dyche said in his pre-match press conference. I have to say I agree with that. I know some are getting a bit nervy right now with us having gone five games without a win, but I really do think we will be OK and I doubt anything more than two wins are needed to ensure we remain in the Premier League. It might not even take that.
Captain Tom Heaton, one of six Burnley players to have received an international call up in the last week, like his manager is looking up rather than nervously looking at the clubs in the bottom positions.
“There are ten games left and it’s important we go and kick on from here,” he said. “There’s no patting anyone on the back here. There’s a lot of work still to be done and we are embracing the journey. We want to see where we can go. There’s no resting on laurels or anything like that. We are trying to step on and keep moving up the table.”
Heaton is also positive that we’ll break that away duck soon too, adding: “We have a lot of confidence that if we keep putting performances in and keep nudging those forward then a result is just around the corner. Hopefully it will be this weekend.”
He missed the game at Swansea through illness but returned last week at Liverpool when the Clarets really were unlucky not to get something from the game, and he’ll be in goal tomorrow against Sunderland.
Dean Marney is our long term absentee while Johann Berg Gudmundsson will miss out again with his medial knee injury taking longer than expected. Dyche did say: “It’s not settled down as quickly as we’d hoped but he has seen a specialist and he’s not worried about it.”
Steven Defour returned with 70 minutes in a behind closed doors game this week. He’s been described as touch and go but I suspect he’ll return to the squad as will Jon Flanagan who was unable to be involved last week due to us playing his parent club.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we started with the same eleven as at Anfield. If that’s the case we’ll line up: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Jeff Hendrick, Joey Barton, Scott Arfield, Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray. Subs from: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Ashley Westwood, Steven Defour, Robbie Brady, Sam Vokes, Dan Agyei.
It’s not been the best of seasons so far for Sunderland. They are currently bottom of the league with 19 points, three points behind next to bottom Middlesbrough and six points behind Crystal Palace who occupy the safe 17th place.
It’s also been a season littered with injuries and they’ve had even more bad news today regarding Jan Kirchoff. The German midfielder has been out for some time but came back via an under-23 outing against Manchester United. Unfortunately for them, his knee swelled up again and Moyes today confirmed that he’ll face a minimum of a further four weeks out.
Besides Kirchoff and their other long term absentees, there is also a doubt over Steven Pienaar although Darron Gibson is expected to play despite suffering a minor injury.
Sunderland are certainly capable of getting shock wins so this is by no means an easy game. Only last month they won 4-0 at Crystal Palace. They haven’t scored a goal since but with Jermain Defoe in the side, boosted by his England recall, there is always a goal in this team.
They haven’t played for two weeks with their scheduled game at Middlesbrough called off last week because of Boro’s FA Cup commitments.
Their last game was a 2-0 home defeat against Manchester City when the team was: Jordan Pickford, Billy Jones, Bryan Oviedo, Lamine Kone, John O’Shea, Darron Gibson, Sebastian Larsson, Didier Ndong, Fabio Borini, Adnan Januzaj, Jermain Defoe. Subs: Vito Mannone, Javier Manquillo, Papy Djilibodji, George Honeyman, Donald Love, Jack Rodwell, Wahbi Khazri.
LAST TIME WE WERE THERE
It wasn’t a memorable day. For me this was our worst performance last time out in the Premier League. It was played just hours after Burnley chief executive Lee Hoos had all but ended Danny Ings’ hopes of a move to Liverpool in the January transfer window. Ings went on to have a very poor game with Sean Dyche admitting afterwards that he was very close to leaving him out.
This game wasn’t just about Ings though. We chose this last day of January 2015 to turn in an abject performance in that ridiculous all silver tin foil kit.
We actually came close to taking the lead through Ashley Barnes, our best player on the day, but he headed a David Jones free kick wide.
We continued to be the better side although Sunderland harshly had a goal ruled out, but they took the lead with just twenty minutes gone. It was awful stuff as Anthony Reveillere was allowed to get down the right. When he crossed, Connor Wickham was totally unmarked to head home.
Soon afterwards Patrick van Aanholt, on the left, a player we didn’t deal with all afternoon, crossed for Jermain Defoe to score his first Sunderland goal. With over ten minutes still to play before half time the game looked over, and so it was.
It really had been an off day and we knew much better was needed if we were to get out of the relegation places.
The teams were;
Sunderland: Costel Pantilimon, Anthony Reveillere, Santiago Vergini, John O’Shea, Patrick van Aanholt, Liam Bridcutt, Sebastian Larsson, Jordi Gomes, Adam Johnson (Ricardo Alvarez 86), Jermain Defoe (Steven Fletcher 75) Connor Wickham (Danny Graham 76). Subs not used: Vito Mannone, Billy Jones, Sebastian Coates, Emanuele Giaccherini.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Keane, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, George Boyd (Ross Wallace 61), Dean Marney, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Danny Ings (Lukas Jutkiewicz 61), Ashley Barnes (Sam Vokes 76). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Steven Reid, Michael Duff, Marvin Sordell.Follow UpTheClarets:
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