Burnley-Stoke City Preview
It took 11 games, but Burnley finally have a win to their name this season.
Sean Dyche's Burnley were always expected to struggle after their unexpected promotion to the Premier League, but appeared in danger of challenging the all-time worst records in the division's history after picking up just four points and scoring only five goals in their opening 10 matches. However, Ashley Barnes' second half strike against Hull City at Turf Moor last time out was enough to earn the Clarets (1-4-6) a precious three points.
Despite the win over Hull, Dyche's side remain rooted to the foot of the table, and the Burnley boss is aware his team are still in for a long and difficult season.
"One win isn't like we've won the World Cup, one win is us laying a marker down and now we're looking to move it forward," said the gravelly voiced Dyche. "We always said we wanted to be competitive in our own way and in our own fashion and we've done that - but that's always measured by winning games. We're not thinking we're going to roll into town and pick up three points every week but we feel we can be competitive and that win reinforces our beliefs."
Stoke City (4-3-4) picked up their first win in three matches with a 2-1 victory at Tottenham Hotspur prior to the international break. Bojan Krkic scored a sensational opener and Jonathan Walters made it 2-0 before the break. But it took an impressive defensive showing in the second half to prevent Spurs from claiming what would have been a barely deserved point, and captain Ryan Shawcross believes manager Mark Hughes is responsible for the team's resolute showing at the back.
"Ever since the new manager came last season he's been brilliant with me," Shawcross said. "He's shown a belief in me, and my form's been good so hopefully I'm repaying him.
"The defenders and goalkeeper had a meeting with the manager and he told us he wanted more from us. So in the last two weeks we've been really concentrating on the basics of defending. We defended well against Tottenham, even if we were disappointed in the end that they got one goal. Now we move on and hopefully get a clean sheet against Burnley."
If Stoke are to pick up a clean sheet, they may have to do it without Robert Huth (calf) and Phil Bardsley (groin), who are both injury doubts in defence. Marc Wilson and Glen Whelan are likely absentees in midfield, while striker Peter Odemwingie will miss the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury.
Burnley only have three injury problems, but they are to high-profile players in a squad hardly glistening with stardust. On-loan Chelsea prospect Nathaniel Chalobah has been tipped for international success, but is unlikely to feature against Stoke, while Premier League veteran Matty Taylor (calf) and Welsh international Sam Vokes (knee) remain absent.
No Premier League ground has seen fewer goals than the Britannia's 10 (five for Stoke, five against) this season, and Burnley are unlikely to change that. The Clarets have managed just two points and two goals away from home since the start of the campaign, and have just one win in 24 total attempts away from home in their two combined Premier League seasons.
The Potters are unbeaten at home since the start of September, taking seven of a possible nine points.