Burnley-West Ham United Preview
West Ham were fourth in the Premier League at Christmas and had their sights set firmly on a Champions League berth but now the Hammers are playing mainly for pride as they welcome relegation-threatened Burnley to Upton Park on Saturday.
The Hammers (11-11-12) have dropped into the second half of the table after securing just one win in 12 top-flight matches. West Ham were held to a goalless draw at London rivals Queens Park Rangers last weekend and were lucky to come away with a point after Hoops striker Charlie Austin missed a first-half penalty.
West Ham boss Sam Allardyce, who is out of contract with the Hammers at the end of the season, is expecting an open game against the Clarets.
"Like every team you have to look for their weaknesses and exploit them," Allardyce said at his pre-match press conference. "As has been the case with ourselves, they have been a little short on goals recently.
"We have to make sure we take our chances while keeping an all-important clean sheet like we did last weekend. I don't think it will be a tight game because Burnley know they have to come here and go for it. We have to be aware of that, stay solid and exploit the spaces they may leave."
The Clarets (5-11-18) are one point adrift at the foot of the table after losing four of their last five top-flight matches. Sean Dyche's strugglers have also gone 479 minutes without scoring a goal in Premier League.
Burnley lost 1-0 at home to fellow relegation candidates Leicester last weekend in a match that saw Matty Taylor miss a penalty for the Clarets.
Despite their current predicament, Burnley skipper Jason Shackell remains confident his side can get a result at West Ham to boost their fight against relegation.
"We need to win games and if we win all four, or get three wins and a draw I'm sure we'll be there or thereabouts," Shackell told his club website. "We need to go out there and get back on the scoring trail and winning football matches.
"But again we've got to look forward not back. We've got four big games coming up and there is no reason why we can't go and win all four."
Burnley haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their last seven games against West Ham in all competitions, while the Hammers have kept just one in that time.
Allardyce has confirmed that 18-year-old Reece Burke, who performed well at centre-back last week, is likely to feature against the Clarets.
Burnley will have Ashley Barnes available after suspension and will hope Sam Vokes is fit to return after he missed the defeat to Leicester with a thigh injury.
"Sam has still got a minor thigh injury so we'll have to wait and see tomorrow," Dyche said. "He's touch and go for the trip to West Ham but apart from the long-term absentees we have everyone available."
West Ham beat Burnley 3-1 at Turf Moor in October, with all four goals coming in the second half. Diafra Sakho opened the scoring on 49 minutes and Enner Valencia doubled the Hammers' lead minutes later.
George Boyd pulled a goal back for Burnley on the hour mark, but Carlton Cole netted 10 minutes later to put the Hammers two up again. Winston Reid missed the draw against QPR with a hamstring injury and may miss out again.