Preview: A classic six-pointer

Burnley v QPR

15:00 – Turf Moor – Barclays Premier League

Burnley have drawn their last three matches but a point will not be enough on Saturday when relegation rivals QPR visit Turf Moor for a classic six-pointer.

Even though Sean Dyche’s side have only won one of their last nine matches they have been playing well in recent weeks, fighting back after falling behind to secure successive draws against Manchester City, Newcastle and Spurs.

QPR will be a different proposition as the Clarets go into the match as favourites for a change and how the team deals with that unusual pressure could decide the final result on Saturday.

The R’s have a dreadful away record this season with no points at all collected on the road so far, although in their defence they have mainly faced top teams in their trips away from Loftus Road. Their good home form cannot hold up all season so they need to start winning away soon. R’s have only scored four away goals all season.

Saturday’s match marks the return to Turf Moor of Charlie Austin, who will be looking to add to his impressive haul of 12 goals this season. Austin scored 45 times for Burnley in two-and-a-half years at the club and is still cherished by supporters despite his goal and red card when the teams met at Loftus Road in early December, a game Rangers won 2-0.

Matches between sides at the bottom of the league can often be tight and nervous affairs and Saturday’s game is likely to be no different. The permanent signing of talented young defender Michael Keane from Manchester United is a boost to the Clarets, who will be hoping skipper Jason Shackell has recovered from a calf injury in time to play. Sam Vokes’ rehabilitation is also progressing well and the Wales international scored the first goal of his comeback in Monday night’s 1-1 FA Cup draw against Spurs.

The R’s have often played 4-5-1 away from home this season but Redknapp may opt for two strikers as Bobby Zamora caused lots of problems for the Burnley defence the last time these two teams met. Although he is not much of a goal threat Zamora’s power in the air is an issue for Dyche to deal with, although Austin will understandably occupy defenders’ attention more.

Goals have been a problem for the Clarets at home this season. In 12 league and cup games at Turf Moor this season Dyche’s side have only scored eight goals and they have not scored more than once in any home fixture. However, Tom Heaton has kept four home clean sheets in ten league games and Dyche’s attackers have found improved form in recent weeks. George Boyd has scored in successive league matches and Ashley Barnes has three goals in his last five league appearances, while Danny Ings is always a threat too.

Burnley’s next four league games are all against teams in the bottom seven with three of those fixtures at home. A win against QPR on Saturday would set Dyche’s team up for a run of form that will get them up the Premier League table.

Should Jason Shackell and Dean Marney be fit, Dyche could name the same team for the seventh league game in a row and Redknapp could hand Mauro Zarate a debut after the Argentine striker signed on loan from West Ham.

An ankle injury keeps left-back Yun Suk-young out of contention, so Clint Hill is likely to fill in and Boyd can surely exploit the veteran’s lack of pace.

Possible line-ups

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Mee; Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd; Ings, Barnes

QPR: Green; Isla, Dunne, Caulker, Hill; Vargas, Henry, Barton, Fer; Austin, Zamora

Form: LDDLW

Rangers have been strong at Loftus Road but pathetic on the road, although they are yet to face any of their relegation rivals away from home.

The R’s suffered a 3-0 defeat in their last fixture, crashing out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle with a heavy defeat at home to League One Sheffield United.

Redknapp’s men have lost every single away game this season, scoring just four goals in the process.

Dangerman: Charlie Austin

As tough as Rangers have found life back in the Premier League at times, one of their players has taken to the top flight like a duck to water.

Austin is of course a familiar face to Clarets supporters and he is certainly the R’s main threat, scoring 12 goals already this season, including the goal that sealed a 2-0 win when the teams met earlier in the season.

The 25-year-old has found goalscoring in the Premier League relatively simple and a hat-trick that hauled his team to a 3-2 win over West Brom having fallen 2-0 down was an undoubted highlight. England recognition beckons for the former brickie.

Manager: Harry Redknapp

No Premier League boss splits opinion like Redknapp, who may still feel he should have replaced Fabio Capello as England manager rather than Roy Hodgson.

His tax affairs aside, Redknapp is an old school manager with a reputation as a wheeler-dealer, although there is no doubt he is popular with his players. Niko Kranjcar is just one of the trusted stars to have signed for Redknapp at multiple clubs.

Successive fourth-place finishes at Spurs earned Redknapp a lofty reputation, but he did have the supreme Gareth Bale to call upon for those two seasons. A run to the quarter-finals of the European Cup in 2011 with Spurs was a career highlight.

Redknapp’s former clubs have a habit of having severe financial problems after he has left. While he won the FA Cup at Portsmouth, providing untold glory to an unfashionable club, they almost went bust in the process.

Prediction: 1-1

Burnley have struggled for goals at home, Rangers have rarely found the net away. It’s therefore not likely to be a thriller at Turf Moor despite the attacking riches both sides possess. Clashes between relegation rivals are often cagey affairs and this one may fit that template, but with players like Austin and Ings on the pitch there is always the possibility of goals. A tight draw.

How do you see the game going? What team would you pick? Comment below.

And if you’re not attending the match, why not follow the action with the return of the world-famous NNN live blog from 2.30pm. And if you are going to the match, call us with your reaction afterwards.

Preview: Clarets on form

Spurs v Burnley

15:00 – White Hart Lane – Barclays Premier League

Burnley travel to north London with confidence levels as high as they have been all season following last weekend’s surprise 1-0 win over Southampton at Turf Moor.

The Clarets have taken 11 points from their last six games and even with a daunting festive schedule about to get underway have put themselves in a strong position, climbing out of the bottom three.

White Hart Lane is not a happy hunting ground for Burnley, who have not won at the ground for over 30 years. But Sean Dyche’s team made a habit of putting such unwanted records to bed last season and may well do so again.

Dyche is likely to name an unchanged team as long as Ben Mee has recovered from the illness that forced him off towards the end of the victory against the Saints. Sam Vokes has completed two 90 minutes for the development squad as he closes in on a comeback, but is not thought to be ready to take a place on the bench yet. Michael Duff and Matt Taylor are both also still out.;

For Spurs, Emmanuel Adebayor is expected to be back in the squad after returning from compassionate leave, but the Togo forward will only be on the bench as the partnership between Roberto Soldado has been developing quickly.

Mauricio Pochettino has built a Spurs side in the same image of the team he had at Southampton, with jet-powered full-backs providing the width while a 4-2-3-1 is his preferred formation. Academy graduates Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb have been given the task of protecting the defence and this may be a weak area of the Spurs side, although in Hugo Lloris they have one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers.

Spurs lack a top striker but Harry Kane has scored 12 goals in 21 games this season, even if only three of them have been in the league, and none of them in home Premier League fixtures. Kane is being tipped by pundits such as Gary Lineker as a future England star, but first he faces a straight shoot-out with Danny Ings to lead the line for England under-21s next summer.

Ings is a man in form too and despite not scoring in his last three games, his general level of play has been very good. Of Burnley’s last seven goals, Ings has scored four and set up two others, and only QPR rely on a player (Charlie Austin, obviously) more heavily than we do on Ings. Spurs are one of the many PL clubs to have been linked with a move for Ings, so he will be out to impress today.

Spurs’ record signing Erik Lamela has had a difficult time at White Hart Lane since his arrival last summer but there have been signs he is finding his feet and Burnley will need to be wary of the threat the Argentine poses. If he starts on the left wing as expected, his battle with Kieran Trippier could be a blockbuster encounter.

At the back, the Clarets recorded their fifth clean sheet of the season last weekend after Tom Heaton’s top class penalty save denied Dusan Tadic from 12 yards. Michael Keane and Jason Shackell have been forming a very positive partnership and with Keane’s loan deal from Manchester United due to run out in January, extending it or making the move permanent should be top of the list when the transfer window opens.

It looks likely to be another tough day for the Burnley midfield against another team who play five in that department, but it is a big day for Dean Marney, who returns to the club where he first made his name. Marney’s partnership with Jones remains the cornerstone of the Clarets team, even if Jones has been getting some stick for his lack of pace and one-footedness from some fans in recent weeks.

The Clarets have a hard Christmas on paper and realistically, anything they get today will be a bonus.

Possible line-ups

Spurs: Lloris; Walker, Fazio, Vertonghen, Davies; Mason, Bentaleb; Eriksen, Kane, Lamela; Soldado

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Mee; Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd; Ings, Barnes

Form: WWLDL

It’s been the classic ‘season of transition’ for Spurs as Pochettino settles into life at White Hart Lane.

Dodgy at home but strong away, Spurs have put together some good results mixed in with some bad ones and they have already lost at home to Stoke and Newcastle, as well as failing to beat Palace.

Spurs go into today’s game on back-to-back wins, including a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle in the League Cup quarter-final and they have made a habit of scoring late winners.

Dangerman: Christian Eriksen

Eriksen is Spurs’ joint top scorer in the Premier League with six goals, but it is his playmaking talents Burnley will need to be aware of.

Given a freeish role in the Spurs midfield, Eriksen will drift across the pitch seeking pockets of space from which he can hurt the Clarets.

He’s a set piece specialist and has come up with some key goals this season, making himself one of his team’s most important players.

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

For a while it seemed Pochettino may regret his decision to swap Southampton for Spurs as his old club were flying as his new one struggled to get going.

But with the Saints on a bad run and Spurs finding some form, progress is being made after a difficult start to the season.

Pochettino was a massive success at St Mary’s and is building something at Spurs, with a similar high-energy style focused on possession.

However, it is still early days for the new system and there’s a chance Burnley can exploit the weaknesses within it today.

Prediction: 1-1

The Clarets are high on confidence and Spurs have sometimes struggled in front of their own fans this season.

How do you see the game going? What team would you pick? Comment below.

And if you’re not attending the match, why not follow the action with the return of the world-famous NNN live blog from 2.30pm. And if you are going to the match, call us with your reaction afterwards.

Preview: Saints bubble bursting?

Burnley v Southampton

15:00 – Turf Moor – Barclays Premier League

The unbeaten run came to an end with a disappointing 2-0 defeat at QPR last weekend, but Burnley have enough character to bounce back with Southampton the visitors to Turf Moor.

Recent weeks have seen the Saints’ excellent start to the season fizzle out a little and with key players including Morgan Schneiderlin out injured perhaps the timing of their trip to East Lancashire is good for us.

Ex-Clarets Jack Cork and Jay Rodriguez are out too and although Southampton-born Sam Vokes played his first 90 minutes for the development squad in midweek, this game is likely to be too soon for his comeback.

The Saints are among the clubs to have been linked with moves for Danny Ings and the 22-year-old will be out to impress. Ings trained with Southampton as a youngster but was not signed up and he has already scored once against them, in January’s 4-3 FA Cup defeat at St Mary’s.

Sean Dyche remains without defenders Michael Duff and Stephen Ward through injury, so Michael Keane and Ben Mee will continue to deputise. The only other absentee is Matt Taylor, whose achilles injury continues to keep him on the sidelines.

It could therefore be the same team again for Burnley, though Scott Arfield’s form has been below par of late and he is vulnerable to being replaced by either Michael Kightly or Ross Wallace.

Southampton are expected to welcome back defender Toby Alderweireld in place of Maya Yoshida and James Ward-Prowse is back too, but he is expected to be on the bench. With Cork and Schneiderlin unavailable the two holding midfield slots are likely to be occupied by Steven Davis and Victor Wanyama. Alderweireld will play alongside Jose Fonte in the heart of the back four in front of England stopper Fraser Forster.

Width will come from the England international full-backs Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand, while Sadio Mane is an unpredictable presence on the left wing. Dusan Tadic will play behind Graziano Pelle in the number ten role with Shane Long providing energy and industry off the right flank.

The Clarets have a tough run of fixtures from now into the new year, so most supporters would probably take a draw from this one. But with the Saints slightly underpowered due to injury and in their first dodgy patch of form of the season, this is a good opportunity to get another three points on the board.

Southampton are fifth in the Premier League after their glorious start to the new campaign but their confidence is likely to have taken a knock due to their current run of three defeats on the spin and Burnley should not be overawed. There are signs that the Saints bubble might just be bursting and the Clarets have to take advantage of their moment of weakness.

Ronald Koeman’s side are likely to dominate possession with their five-man midfield and the Clarets will probably have to play on the break, meaning the pace of Ings on the attack is going to be vital.

The upcoming fixtures look extremely daunting so a victory in this one would set Burnley up nicely for the busy festive schedule.

Possible line-ups

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Mee; Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd; Ings, Barnes

Southampton: Forster; Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand; Davis, Wanyama; Long, Tadic, Mane; Pelle

Form: LLLDW

There’s no doubt the Saints have gone off the boil in the last few weeks, although that run of defeats has come to Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United. There’s no shame in losing to any of those teams and Southampton were particularly unlucky to lose 2-1 to United on Monday night.

Southampton have already won at West Ham, Swansea and Hull in the league, as well as progressing to the quarter-finals of the League Cup after away victories at Millwall, Arsenal and Stoke.

The drop off in Koeman’s side’s form has coincided with a drying up of Graziano Pelle’s goals and the Italy international has only found the net once in his last seven matches after a flying start to the season.

Dangerman: Dusan Tadic

The partnership between Tadic and Pelle was one of the trademarks of the Saints’ start to the season as the pair, both signed from the Dutch leagues in the summer transfer window, have forged an immediate connection in the final third.

Tadic is very much a modern playmaker and he is given a free-ish role by Koeman, allowing him to float around the pitch in search of the ball or pockets of space. With Burnley employing a fairly rigid 4-4-2, Tadic might have a lot of joy between the Clarets midfield and defence and stopping Tadic from dictacting the play will be necessary if Dyche’s team are to get a result.

The Serb has already recorded six assists and his form has meant Southampton have hardly missed Adam Lallana after the England man’s big money move to Liverpool.

Manager: Ronald Koeman

Part of Johan Cryuff’s Dream Team, 51-year-old Koeman has been working hard to get his managerial reputation up to the same high levels as his record as a player.

Koeman’s CV is a fairly mixed one. He started well at Vitesse and won the double at Ajax but he left when their form tailed off. Koeman won the Dutch league again at PSV before moving to Valencia, where in 2008 he won their first Copa del Rey since 1999.

But Koeman was soon on the move again, returning to AZ in a short-lived spell before taking the reins at Feyenoord, where his win record stood at a massive 57 per cent.

Prediction: 1-1

Both teams have stronger attacks than defences and a draw would probably suit both sides.

How do you see the game going? What team would you pick? Comment below.

And if you’re not attending the match, why not follow the action with the return of the world-famous NNN live blog from 2.30pm. And if you are going to the match, call us with your reaction afterwards.

Clarets take on bare bones Magpies

The first ever Premier League meeting between the Clarets and the Toon Army should be a tasty one. The Magpies are sure bring a vociferous following and it should be a fantastic atmosphere under the lights at Turf Moor.

It’s safe to say that Mike Ashley won’t be sat with the Geordies on the infamous wooden seats, downing pints and having some friendly ‘banter’ with the Burnley faithful positioned in the James Hargreaves Lower.

He will be casting an eye over a patched up Newcastle side that Alan Pardew has described as being in a critical condition. Burnley has not welcomed the Toon Army to town in any competition since Boxing Day 1983 – with Newcastle winning 1-0, and the Clarets ultimately being relegated. Burnley will not want history to repeat itself.

Like the Scotch egg, Burnley are an underrated commodity in the Premier League. The opinion from the outside looking in has changed, yet Sean Dyche maintains the belief from the players is what it has been all season, even amidst that dark run without a win.

Scott Arfield will be pushing for a start after coming on against Aston Villa on Saturday, however he will have a tough time displacing Ashley Barnes or Michael Kightly who have injected a new verve into Burnley over this mini run the Clarets are on, taking seven points out of a possible nine.

Apart from long term absentees Matthew Taylor and Sam Vokes, Sean Dyche’s only injury worry is Michael Duff who is still struggling with a calf problem picked up in the win at Stoke City. Michael Keane will deputise and the young defender had a steady full debut against the Villains but was at fault for Joe Cole’s goal, playing the former England international onside to slot home.

There is a more potent feel to Clarets, who look a different side since the much publicised poor start to the campaign and they clearly have the momentum going into this clash. Burnley have been punched on the nose and are coming back for more.

Alan Pardew has been given more headaches over selection than by his past four girlfriends combined; it’s difficult to predict the Newcastle United starting line-up at Turf Moor.

One player Clarets’ fans won’t want to see pulling on the black and white will be club captain Fabricio Coloccini, who should return from injury after missing two games with a calf strain.

The Newcastle squad resemble the walking dead as Tim Krul, Daryl Janmaat, Siem de Jong, Mike Williamson, Davide Santon, Rolando Aarons, Gabriel Obertan and Ryan Taylor are all side-lined, meaning the Geordies will be down to the bare bones.

Throw in suspended duo Jack Colback and Moussa Sissoko – whose sending off was this season’s most comical by far, you sense Burnley will be smelling black and white laced blood. Rob Elliot also misses out through personal reasons, so Jak Alnwick could make his debut.

It is imperative Sean Dyche’s men come out of the blocks flying against a patched up Newcastle United team. The Magpies are notoriously slow starters, failing to score in the first half in 10 of their 13 Premier League games this season. Burnley haven’t scored more than one goal in all eight matches at home this season so it’s pointing to a low-scoring affair.

But Danny Ings is hitting a hot streak that all strikers thrive upon. The England U21 international has found his shooting boots of late with four goals in his five Premier League games. He has implored the Clarets to make a quick start against the injury ravaged Toon after a slow opening 45 minutes against Villa ultimately cost the Clarets three points.

The ball now is now falling in the box for Ings, who is a good finisher anyway. So his form is a massive boost for Burnley. He could have been the matchwinner on Saturday but for the width of the post. If the equaliser would have come five minutes earlier Burnley would have won the match at a canter.

The players are now relishing each game that comes along and with six games in December the 18 points up for grabs will go a long way to determine who the club can target in January, the future of Danny Ings and ultimate Premier League survival.

Burnley need to be patient tonight against a team that is likely to defend deep and hit on the break through Ayoze Perez and Sammy Ameobi. An early goal could see the Clarets secure a huge victory over one of the country’s most famous clubs.

Three points could take the Clarets into mid table putting the team in a fantastic position to pick up a result at relegation rivals QPR on Saturday.

What are your predictions for tonight? Comment below.

Preview: Three wins in a row?

Burnley v Aston Villa

15:00 – Turf Moor – Barclays Premier League

It’s amazing how quickly things can turn around in football.

A few weeks ago Burnley’s relegation was being talked of as an inevitability, but after successive wins the Clarets are off the bottom of the table and looking good.

Deserved – and reasonably comfortable – wins over Hull and Stoke have given Burnley momentum and the visit of Aston Villa to Turf Moor is a great chance to make it three wins in a row.

Villa are on a dreadful run and the less than surprising news of assistant manager Roy Keane’s departure after a less than surprising reported training ground bust-up may have had an impact on their preparation.

For perhaps the first time this season the onus will be on Burnley to make things happen and go out and win the game. A draw would not be a particularly good result for the Clarets.

Paul Lambert’s Villa side prefer to play on the break, using the pace of Gabby Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann, so Burnley are likely to dominate possession for a change.

Sean Dyche could be forced into a change at the back after Michael Duff limped off with 15 minutes to go at the Britannia. However, Michael Keane excelled in his cameo and the timing might just be ideal to make that inevitable switch with Villa being without star striker Christian Benteke through suspension.

Villa’s captain Ron Vlaar is also out, along with fellow defenders Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker, although the return of Jores Okore in Monday night’s 1-1 draw with Southampton was welcomed by Villa supporters.

Okore looked good on his comeback from a long injury layoff but Burnley’s in-form strikeforce of Danny Ings and Ashley Barnes will be confident of adding to Villa’s woes.

Ings in particular is in sparkling nick and he seems to be getting better every game. His two goals at Stoke were both effectively tap-ins, but you have to be there to score them. Ings has scored three goals in his last four Premier League matches, making him one of the division’s form attackers, in addition to his two for the England U21s during the international break.

Alongside him Barnes is continuing to prove more people wrong every week, including me! Barnes earned his place in the side almost by default with Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell both struggling to make an impact, but the former Brighton man has starred in two wins. His winner against Hull was well taken and he played a key role in Burnley’s flying start at the Britannia.

Dyche could bring Scott Arfield back into the team after the Scot missed the win at Stoke with injury, but as Michael Kightly was in solid form against his old club it might be harsh to drop him. George Boyd, breaking new workrate records, has quickly made himself an indispensable member of the side on the other flank.

Burnley are likely to face a Villa side content to sit deep and soak up pressure, so the challenge will be breaking them down. Burnley found this tough when Sunderland came with a similar gameplan earlier in the season. The Clarets will have to mix up their attacks, making the most of Kieran Trippier’s incisive deliveries from deep, while getting Ings on the ball in and around the box as much as possible.

The prize on offer for Burnley is that a win is highly likely to get them out of the bottom three and above the dotted line of doom.

Possible line-ups

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Ward; Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd; Ings, Barnes

Aston Villa: Guzan; Hutton, Okore, Clark, Cissokho; Cleverley, Sanchez, Westwood; N’Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Weimann

Form: DDLLL

After a surprisingly good start to the season – Villa won at Stoke and Liverpool as they took ten points from their first four games with only one goal conceded – it’s been back to rank averageness for Paul Lambert’s side.

Villa haven’t won since September 13th, losing five in a row without scoring a goal before a 2-1 home loss to Spurs. Back to back draws have given them slightly more hope, but this is a Villa team that has been lucky to stay in the Premier League for the last few seasons.

They also went out of the Capital One Cup in yet another embarrassing result to lower league opposition, losing 1-0 at home to Leyton Orient.

Dangerman: Gabby Agbonlahor

With Benteke suspended due to his own stupidity, Agbonlahor is Villa’s main goal threat. The Brummie-born speed merchant is a threat on the break but has rarely been a prolific goalscorer in the top flight.

A career goal ratio of around one in five sums up Agbonlahor’s lack of Premier League class, but he has an eye for the spectacular and should not be written off completely.

Agbonlahor has scored three goals this season, two of them in wins and one in a draw.

Manager: Paul Lambert

Lambert has had to manage in difficult conditions at Villa as Randy Lerner has pulled the plug on squad investment as he seeks a buyer for the club.

However, the regular cup upsets to lower league opposition cannot be excused by a lack of spending and Lambert’s Villa team has been fairly awful at home for two years or even longer.

Lambert impressed in spells at Wycombe and Colchester, earning a big move to Norwich City in 2010 and he led the Carrow Road outfit to successive promotions and into the Premier League, turning down the advances of Burnley after Brian Laws’ sacking in the process.

He then added further to his reputation by keeping the Canaries in the top flight, but after leaving for Villa it has been a long struggle, with two long and miserable battles against the drop.

Prediction: 2-0

Burnley really should be winning this one according to the form book and Villa are one of the teams we’ll have to finish above if we’re to stay up.

With Ings in good form, we should have enough for a relatively comfortable victory.

How do you see the game going? What team would you pick? Comment below.

And if you’re not attending the match, why not follow the action with the return of the world-famous NNN live blog from 2.30pm. And if you are going to the match, call us with your reaction afterwards.

Preview: Winning run on the cards?

Burnley V Stoke City

15:00 – Britannia Stadium – Barclays Premier League

The international break didn’t come at the best of times for Burnley after the Clarets finally got a first win of the season against Hull City two weeks ago.

But awards wins for Sean Dyche and Danny Ings should have kept momentum up ahead of today’s tricky trip to the Britannia Stadium.

Burnley have a good record at the ground, winning five out of their nine league matches since Stoke moved into the stadium in 1997, though the last time the Clarets won there was eight years ago.

Dyche could name the same team for the first time in a few weeks, with the only question mark over Ings’ strike partner. Dyche has rotated his forwards in recent weeks but found a winning combination in Ings and Barnes a fortnight ago.

Barnes wasn’t particularly impressive in the 1-0 win against the Tigers but still scored the winning goal and has earned a run in the side. He has scored four times for Burnley and each has been the opener in an important win.

Nathaniel Chalobah picked up a knock on international duty but should be fit to take his place on the bench and Steven Reid is back in contention to be in the squad too, but Matt Taylor and Sam Vokes are still a few weeks from returning to action.

The international break was a good one for Ings, who scored two goals for England Under 21s at Turf Moor in a game against Portugal. Ings has now scored more times for England than Burnley this season, but has been showing improved form in recent weeks.

Mark Hughes has a defensive problem with Erik Pieters and Phil Bardsley both potentially out, while Marc Wilson and Robert Huth will definitely miss the match and Geoff Cameron is likely to be tired after international duty with the United States. However, the return of Glenn Whelan to the Potters midfield is a boost and any defence featuring Ryan Shawcross is always going to give strikers a battle.

Stoke sit in the top half of the table after a bright start to the season as Hughes continues to revamp their style of play, although the aerial threat of Peter Crouch is still likely to be key. Burnley have conceded eight headed goals already this season, the most in the Premier League. But Stoke have more about them than Crouch’s height these days.

Other threats will come from the former Manchester United striker Mame Biram Diouf, who has scored three times already since his summer move to the Britannia, and the pacy and powerful wide attacker Victor Moses.

Hughes could also turn to the former Barcelona forward Bojan. Hopefully Burnley have ignored the ridiculous media chatter about the “Barca curse”. It turns out players who have played for Barcelona are quite good. Who knew?

Asmir Begovic is arguably the best goalkeeper in the Premier League and Stoke look strong throughout their squad this season, looking good to challenge for a place in the Europa League.

Stoke is the archetypal ‘tough place to go’ but it is the type of trip Burnley will need to get something from to improve their survival chances.

The win against Hull was merely a starting point and with the Clarets still bottom of the Premier League, there is a lot of work ahead.

Possible line-ups

Stoke City: Begovic; Bardsley, Shawcross, Cameron, Pieters; Walters, N’Zonzi, Whelan, Moses; Crouch, Diouf

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Ward; Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd; Ings, Barnes

Form: WDLLW

A shock 2-1 win at Spurs fired Stoke into the top half ahead of the break and the Potters look like safety is assured this season.

Stoke have also won at Manchester City this season in one of the most eye-catching results of the new campaign.

Home defeats to Aston Villa and Leicester without scoring a goal show there is still room for Hughes’ team to get even better.

Dangerman: Victor Moses

Moses has been a star attraction for Stoke since his summer move to the Britannia Stadium.

Labelled a diver by Swansea boss Garry Monk after winning a penalty in Stoke’s 2-1 win against the Swans, Moses has been causing teams problems with his speed and ability to get into the box all season.

However, he has only scored one goal for Stoke so far, netting in the Potters’ 2-2 draw against fellow high-flyers West Ham.

At just 23, the on-loan Chelsea man has the potential to get even better.

Manager: Mark Hughes

Hughes is successfully rebuilding his reputation at Stoke after the first real misstep of his career, walking out on Fulham.

The 51-year-old started out with an excellent spell in charge of Wales before taking Blackburn Rovers to the FA Cup semi-finals and the top six of the Premier League, although his team were often described as overly physical.

Hughes had some success at newly-rich Manchester City but was replaced by Roberto Mancini but he led Fulham to an eighth-place finish and qualification for the Europa League, through the Fair Play League no less.

He next turned up at QPR, keeping them in the Premier League before an awful start to the new season resulted in a second successive sacking.

The Welshman has since admitted he made a mistake walking out on Fulham after only a year but has done good work at Stoke so far, with the Potters finishing in ninth last year.

Prediction: 1-1

Stoke is one of the most difficult places to play in the Premier League with the windy conditions and loud home crowd making it a tough test for any team.

But losses to Villa and Leicester at the Britannia show Hughes’ side can be beaten on home soil and Dyche’s team can get a point to continue building momentum towards a survival challenge.

How do you see the game going? What team would you pick? Comment below.

And if you’re not attending the match, why not follow the action with the return of the world-famous NNN live blog from 2.30pm. And if you are going to the match, call us with your reaction afterwards.

Preview: Must-win game?

Burnley V Hull City

15:00 – Turf Moor – Barclays Premier League

Burnley are the last remaining professional team in England yet to win.

Ten games without a win at the start of the season has left the Clarets three points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League and five off safety.

It doesn’t look good.

The Christmas adverts are starting on television but it still feels far too early to be calling the Hull match a “must-win” fixture. But if the Clarets fail to win again their poor run will stretch for another international break and towards the start of December.

Similarly, you can’t really have a six-pointer this early in the season but Hull are relegation rivals and Burnley have to be putting these teams away at home if they are to have any hope of survival.

So after weighing it up, I reckon this one is a must-win.

Sean Dyche is boosted by the return to fitness of Dean Marney, although Sam Vokes and Matt Taylor are still on the sidelines. Michael Keane and Nathaniel Chalobah are still waiting for their first league starts and with Burnley having shipped 15 goals in their last five games, it might be the right time to rejig the defence and add more protection in midfield. Michael Duff must be vulnerable to losing his place, while Stephen Ward has not been an improvement on Ben Mee so far.

Promoting Chalobah would probably require a shift from 4-4-2 and that might look too negative for such an important game, though 4-5-1 and its variations need not necessarily be more defensive compared to 4-4-2. It’s hard to see Dyche shifting from 4-4-2 after the disaster at West Brom, anyway.

Dyche’s main selection dilemma is who to play up front alongside Danny Ings. Lukas Jutkiewicz dropped to the bench for last weekend’s 3-0 loss at Arsenal and Marvin Sordell did okay as a replacement without ever offering a goal threat. Hull have defenders who are strong in the air so Sordell’s pace might be a better option for this one.

Michael Dawson, Alex Bruce, Nikica Jelavic and Robert Snodgrass are all likely to be missing for Steve Bruce’s team, leaving the Tigers a little short of cover at the back. On-loan midfielder Gaston Ramirez is available after sitting out the Southampton game, but the trip to Turf Moor is likely to come too soon for goalkeepers Allan McGregor and Steve Harper, who are both back in training. Third choice Eldin Jakupovic is therefore likely to continue.

Hull often line up with a back three and wing-backs but the injuries to Dawson and the younger Bruce could force the elder Bruce into selecting a back four with Andrew Robertson and Ahmed El Mohamedy as full-backs. Hull will rely on Hatem Ben Arfa for their creativity if he keeps Ramirez out of the side, while Uruguay international striker Abel Hernandez has had a reasonable start to life in the Premier League with three goals in seven games.

The Tigers look strong in midfield and much of their play will go through Tom Huddlestone, while fellow ex-Spurs midfielder Jake Livermore provides bite alongside him and Mo Diame is a powerful goal threat.

George Boyd faces his old team for the first time since his joint club record transfer on deadline day and Burnley will look to him for creativity and a spark from nothing.

Possible line-ups

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Ward; Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd; Ings, Jutkiewicz

Hull City: Jakupovic; Chester, Davies, McShane; El Mohamedy, Livermore, Huddlestone, Diame, Robertson; Ben Arfa; Hernandez

Form: LDDWL

A good start to the new campaign has largely petered out for Bruce’s side and they’re looking over their shoulders at the bottom three as second season syndrome creeps up on them.

Hull won away at QPR on the opening day but haven’t picked up three points on the road since, although a 2-2 draw at the Emirates was creditable and Arsenal needed a late goal from Danny Welbeck to escape with a point.

After previously being one of the Premier League’s freescoring sides, Hull haven’t found the net in their last two matches.

Dangerman: Hatem Ben Arfa

Ben Arfa was one of the more eye-catching new arrivals in a busy summer of transfer activity for Hull.

The mercurial Frenchman was hugely out of favour at Newcastle but was offered a lifeline at unfashionable Hull, which he surprisingly jumped at.

His influence hasn’t been massive so far this season but he is one of the more talented and unpredictable players in the Premier League. If he is on form, Burnley will find it hard to contain him.

Manager: Steve Bruce

Bruce has a case to be described as the most underrated manager in the Premier League.

After an up and down start to his managerial career, Bruce did a superb job at Birmingham City and performed similarly well at Wigan, leading them to mid-table in the Premier League.

Bruce’s time at Sunderland went less well but he rebuilt his reputation by getting Hull promoted, leading them to a mid-table finish and pushing Arsenal close in the FA Cup final.

He might not be the most fashionable choice around, but Bruce is a very solid manager.

Prediction: 1-1

It’s likely to be tight and tense and the wait for the first win may go on a bit longer…

How do you see the game going? What team would you pick? Comment below.

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Preview: Marney’s back!

Arsenal v Burnley

15:00 – The Emirates – Barclays Premier League

Dean Marney might not look much like a hero, but Burnley have missed him something rotten in the last few games.

Marney is back for the trip to Arsenal after four games out, a run of matches that saw the Clarets win just one point and concede 12 goals.

The protection Marney provides to the back five is absolutely vital and the return of the all-action midfielder should free up Scott Arfield to return to the right wing, with Michael Kightly dropping to the bench.

Sean Dyche main decision will be over whether he switches to a five-man midfield or continues with his preferred 4-4-2 formation. Lukas Jutkiewicz is vulnerable and this might be the ideal time to bring in Nathaniel Chalobah in the holding role.

More changes could also happen at the back, where swapping Stephen Ward for Ben Mee appeared to make little difference in last weekend’s 3-1 loss to Everton. Michael Keane could make his full league debut for the club, coming in for Michael Duff, while there are also the first murmurs from fans about Tom Heaton’s place in goal.

What’s vital for Dyche is that he finds a way to get his team pressing with the ferocious energy they showed last season. Too often the Clarets are standing off their opponents and allowing them to put whatever attacking moves together they want. Burnley have to be more streetwise and learn when to stop attacks with fouls.

Arsene Wenger has the usual Arsenal injury crisis on his hands this weekend. Long-term absentees Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Debuchy remain some time away from a comeback, although Theo Walcott could be on the bench. Jack Wilshere is out with a knee injury and Kieran Gibbs will also have a late fitness test. With Laurent Koscielny expected to miss out Arsenal are very short at the back and if Gibbs is unavailable they may be forced to select Mathieu Flamini at right-back, or promote the youngster Hector Bellerin. Record signing Mesut Ozil is also injured along with Abou Diaby and Yaya Sanogo.

The Gunners have been vulnerable at home this season and Burnley will feel they can get at what can be a dodgy Arsenal defence. Arsenal find it particularly difficult to defend against pace, so it is a shame Burnley have so little in their squad. Set pieces could be important for Burnley.

Arsenal have plenty of speed of their own through Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the returning Welbeck, with Burnley likely to be forced to defend deep in their own half as a result.

It looks like a tough ask on paper but it would be typical Burnley to get a result against the odds.

Possible line-ups

Arsenal: Szczesny; Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs; Arteta, Flamini; Ramsey, Sanchez, Cazorla; Welbeck

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee; Arfield, Chalobah, Jones, Boyd; Ings, Jutkiewicz

Form: WWDLW

Arsenal’s league form has been dodgy this season but they are still fifth place in the Premier League, although the nine-point gap to Chelsea already looks insurmountable.

Last time out was a gifted 2-0 win at Sunderland, but it’s Arsenal’s home form that has been causing the most concern for Gooners. Wenger’s team needed a late Welbeck equaliser to get a point against Hull City and went out of the Capital One Cup to Southampton.

Draws against Spurs and Manchester City are forgiveable, but Arsenal haven’t won at home in the league since the opening day.

Dangerman: Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez looked like a perfect fit for the Premier League and he has adapted rapidly to his new surroundings.

With plenty of pace, power and strength, the Chilean is a serious handful for any defence and playing in his favoured number ten role he is extremely difficult to stop.

Sanchez has already scored eight goals for his new club – all of them in his last 11 games – and Burnley will have to stop him if they are to get anything from their trip to north London.

Manager: Arsene Wenger

Wenger is the longest-serving manager in the Premier League by a distance, but it is a long time since his team was seriously competitive in Europe and the Premier League.

The Invincibles season feels many years ago now and although Wenger has shown more willingness to splash the cash in recent years, bringing in Sanchez and Ozil for big money, his Arsenal team feels more Arsenalish than ever.

Great with the ball but dodgy without it, the Gunners look vulnerable and soft-bellied when teams go at them and while last year’s FA Cup win eased some of the mounting pressure on Wenger, his team still looks two or three key players short of a genuine title challenge.

The problem for Arsenal and Wenger is that has been the case for several years.

Prediction: 2-1

The return of key players provides a big boost to Dyche’s squad and a first win of the season is on the cards.

How do you see the game going? What team would you pick? Comment below.

And if you’re not attending the match, why not follow the action with the return of the world-famous NNN live blog from 2.30pm. And if you are going to the match, call us with your reaction afterwards.

Preview: Striker shortfall costs Clarets

Burnley v Everton

13:30 – Turf Moor – Barclays Premier League

A misfiring strikeforce cost Burnley a result last weekend and the Clarets remain without a win this season.

Danny Ings, Lukas Jutkiewicz and Ashley Barnes all had presentable chances against West Ham but didn’t hit the target. Sean Dyche and his team will have to learn their lesson after missed chances cost them at least a point.

Dean Marney faces a late fitness test as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury, so it could be the same team again for the Clarets. Achilles surgery rules Matt Taylor out, but Michael Keane and Steven Reid are expected to be available again.

Jutkiewicz’s place may soon come under threat if he continues to struggle in front of goal and Burnley will look for more from Ings after a quiet return last week, while the defence could be shaken up after conceding nine goals in the last three matches.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez rested a few key players for Thursday night’s trip to Lille and the Toffees have often struggled after European trips this season.

Romelu Lukaku is expected to lead the line despite sustaining a head injury in France and although he has had a disappointing start to the season, the Belgian is a fearsome force in full flow.

Everton have threats all over the pitch. The recent return to fitness of England starlet Ross Barkley has boosted Martinez’s attacking options, although he is without winger Kevin Mirallas.

Steven Naismith’s great start to the season has faded but he has a knack for coming up with key goals, while Everton’s full-backs, Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, are arguably the best pair in the Premier League.

The Toffees have had defensive issues all season, but successive clean sheets provide more of a solid foundation ahead of their trip to Turf Moor.

Possible line-ups

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee; Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd; Ings, Jutkiewicz

Everton: Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Barry, McCarthy; Naismith, Barkley, Pienaar; Lukaku

Form: DWLDD

A somewhat ropey start to the season has lead to more impressive signs for Everton of late, especially in last weekend’s 3-0 sweeping aside of Aston Villa at Goodison Park.

But players such as Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka haven’t looked their usual self after the World Cup and Everton have not seen enough of record signing Lukaku.

Dangerman: Ross Barkley

Barkley is one of the most exciting talents in English football.

With supreme confidence on the ball, Barkley’s decision-making has sometimes been questioned but his ability to drive forward with the ball at pace makes him a huge threat.

Everton will play mobile forwards either side of Barkley in Naismith and tricky winger Steven Pienaar and Burnley may need to switch shape and add Nathaniel Chalobah into the holding role to cope with Barkley’s bursts from deep.

Manager: Roberto Martinez

Former Wigan manager Martinez will be hoping to shake off any suspicions his team has second season syndrome this year.

Everton were superb last season under Martinez, pushing the top four close, but they ultimately fell just short.

Taking the Toffees to the next level will be the next challenge for Martinez, who may also be targeting silverware to add to the FA Cup he won with Wigan.

Entry into the Champions League might be most easily achieved this season by winning the Europa League.

Previous encounters

The last meeting between the teams came in the first few weeks of Burnley’s last season in the Premier League. Burnley had already beaten Manchester United at Turf Moor and continued their fine start when Wade Elliott’s goal sealed another 1-0 win. Burnley were perhaps fortunate that Louis Saha put a penalty wide, although it had been a soft award from the referee.

Prior to that game, the teams had not played for over 30 years. In both the 74/75 and the 75/76 seasons, Burnley and Everton played out 1-1 draws at Turf Moor.

The last win the Toffees have recorded at Burnley came in 1970 when Everton ran out 1-0 winners.

Prediction: 1-1

Burnley are growing increasingly desperate for that first win, but a lack of confidence in front of goal is harming their chances.

Everton may have turned a corner after a dodgy start to the season and will be tough opponents, but the Clarets should have enough to get a point.

How do you see the game going? What team would you pick? Comment below.

And if you’re not attending the match, why not follow the action with the return of the world-famous NNN live blog from 1pm. And if you are going to the match, call us with your reaction afterwards.