Manchester City will be looking to avoid losing consecutive Premier League matches for the first time in almost two years when they meet Sean Dyche’s Burnley side on Saturday afternoon.
Both sides come into this weekend's ninth Premier League match of the campaign in pretty woeful form, with just four wins in the league between them so far. City and Burnley both have managed to win games in this past week however, as City made it four wins from four in the Champions League to secure qualification to the next round, whilst Burnley won their first Premier League game on Monday against Crystal Palace.
There are a considerable number of questions to be asked of both sides at the moment but with Burnley currently situated in 17th place and a few rumours around the future of Sean Dyche going around, we spoke to The Athletic’s Burnley correspondent, Andy Jones, about Saturday’s match and whether it really is a happy place at Turf Moor…
It’s been a relatively poor start to the season for Sean Dyche’s men. Where does the side go from here, and how do they go about climbing up the table?
Hopefully up! There is no hiding from the fact that Burnley's start has been disappointing with a long injury list and a lack of recruitment in the summer contributing. The win against Crystal Palace felt really important. Sean Dyche labelled it "a start" and it was the first time Burnley got the balance right at both ends of the pitch. They threatened going forwards, scored to get ahead and then put in a signature defensive display to make sure they kept a clean sheet to pick up the three points.
More performances like that will be required to keep climbing the table. A number of players have returned or are on their way back from injury and Burnley are beginning to look like themselves again. Three clean sheets in their last five games shows that defensively they have made improvements and are keeping things tight. The challenge is to continue to be creative. They hadn't score a goal in four games before Chris Wood's strike against Crystal Palace. Their attacking play was improved against Roy Hodgson's side and they need to continue that trend consistently.
Burnley have lost three games by a five-goal margin at the Etihad Stadium. Although Manchester City have been in pretty appalling goalscoring form by our high standards, is there a concern that we could be looking at a similarly dominant scoreline on Saturday?
Potentially, unfortunately. Manchester City were extremely dominant in the Carabao Cup game at Turf Moor and, but for an inspired performance from goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell, it could have been more than the 3-0 scoreline.
In all competitions, the last six meetings between the sides have produced a combined scoreline of 23-1 in City's favour. Peacock-Farrell looks set to be between the sticks again with Nick Pope unlikely to play after he suffered a head injury against Crystal Palace and it will be a huge test to see how he copes. Burnley will miss Pope's presence no doubt but those behind the scenes at the club have been pleased with the no.2's development and feel he is Premier League ready.
Burnley will take confidence in the fact they have kept three clean sheets in their last five matches and have looked like they are getting back to their best. Having James Tarkowski and Ben Mee at the centre of defence together has helped and it is no coincidence Burnley have kept back to back clean sheets with those two playing alongside each other. They will also look at the fact, as you pointed out, Pep Guardiola's side haven't looked as fluent going forward this season to give them hope. Burnley will come into the game on a high after Monday's results and with nobody expecting them to get anything can play without pressure, defending resolutely and looking to counter attack when they can.
Ultimately though, if you catch City on the wrong day then you are going to be in trouble.
How secure do you feel Sean Dyche’s job is at Burnley?
At the moment it is secure. Dyche has the full backing of supporters and even though there have been tensions between him and chairman Mike Garlick in recent months, the board are behind him too. He has been the manager for over eight years now and has instilled a culture and mentality that runs through the club from top to bottom. There is a determined, never say die attitude about his players and they believe in Dyche.
Burnley have been in difficult situations before during his reign and they have turned things around. In the 2018-19 season they found themselves in the bottom three with 12 points from 19 games and then finished strongly to stay clear of relegation. The odds have been stacked against this Burnley side so far this season with a lack of additions in the transfer market and a lengthy injury list. When they have a full squad available they have a team pack with experience who have overachieved and fought against adversity before.
At the end of the day, taking a broad view of it, is there anyone better suited to steering Burnley out of this position then Dyche? Probably not.
Would it take a precarious position in the table towards the latter stages of the campaign for him to lose his job, or would he be given the challenge of rebuilding should the side see relegation?
At this point it is difficult to say. As things stand, Burnley believe he is the right man for the job and it would have to take something drastic for that opinion to change. He has proven that time and again as his side constantly overachieve and turn things around when all seems lost.
Things may alter depending on the possibility of new owners coming in with talks ongoing between the club and two interested groups. Both are believed to be huge fans of Dyche so he will be given time and potentially funds to spend in January if a takeover is completed in the next month. If results don't pick up and relegation looks likely later on in the season then they may consider changing something if things are going really badly but that would really be worst case scenario.
It is difficult to know beyond this season what Dyche would want to do as he would have some say in the matter. He is consistently linked with other teams season upon season. If Burnley were to suffer relegation he may see it as the right time for a new challenge and no doubt Premier League clubs would be interested in his services.
That's thinking a long way in advance though, there are still 30 games remaining and Dyche is fully focused on the here and now. Thoughts on the future can wait.
In the worst case scenario of this season seeing Dyche leave the club, would you feel he is deserving of retaining a top-flight managerial position moving forward?
His record in the top division given the resources he had to work with is phenomenal. To guide Burnley to a Europa League spot and two top ten finishes in the last three seasons is an incredible achievement. He constantly gets the best out of the players he is working with and they respond to his methods.
He has instilled a culture and mentality at the club that everyone wants, a friendly dressing room atmosphere, with good people who are also good players and a drive to work hard and succeed. They are all in it together and ready to fight for each other every Saturday. Teams have been interested in his services before, and with Roy Hodgson out of contract at the end of the season, Crystal Palace, who are fans of Dyche's work, would certainly be one club interested if they felt it was the right direction to go.
How do you see this weekend’s game panning out and can we get a score prediction?
I think it is going to be a difficult challenge for Burnley. Missing Nick Pope would be a huge loss if he is out. Dyche's side will look to be disciplined, keep it tight and rely on Wood and Jay Rodriguez to hold the ball up and bring their creative midfielders such as Dwight McNeil and Johann Berg Gudmundsson into play. Set pieces will also be key.
I don't like making predictions, but I will go 2-0 to Manchester City.
You can follow Andy on Twitter here: @adjones_journo
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