This weekend sees high-flying Burnley in 7th (49 points) face off against fellow European hopefuls Leicester City not far off in 8th (43 points).
This is arguably the most entertaining clash of the weekend despite the ordinariness of both sides.
Sean Dyches side come into this encounter having won four on the bounce and are favorites (say it quietly) to qualify for next season’s Europa League ahead of last season’s Champions League quarter-finalists.
Meanwhile, Claude Puels side come off the back of an unlucky loss to Newcastle United and will be raring to get back on track and return to the form that saw them win four on the trot between November 28th and December 13th.
The last meeting between the sides came in early December. A solitary goal from Demarai Gray very early on was enough for the Foxes to clinch maximum points against a spirited Burnley side that failed to score despite totalling seven shots on goal in the opening 25 minutes.
Can Burnley avenge their loss this time around?
Dyche has voiced that Johann Berg Gudmundsson should be fine, but it’s not totally good news as Georges-Kevin N’Koudou (on-loan from Tottenham Hotspur) suffered a tight hamstring, and will be further checked upon, but was involved in training on Thursday.
Ben Mee is a “big doubt” following a shin injury and also missed the 2-1 win over Watford. The Burnley manager indicated that Mee could be out for a couple of weeks through a stress reaction to the bottom of his shin.
Scott Arfield is back in training, but the Burnley manager isn’t quite sure of whether the Canadian will be fit to participate in the weekends game.
Sean Dyche was full of praise for Kevin Long, having noted his work rate in the win over Watford.
As for Leicester City, Wilfred Ndidi will be serving the second of his three-match suspension following his sending off in the win at Brighton. Vicente Iborra, Matty James and Daniel Amartey are all out injured. Iborra will be out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury.
Little-known Hamza Choudhury will start, having impressed when coming off the bench as a substitute against Newcastle United.
Puel has admitted that he’s frustrated with how the team plays:
“The last game was not about the style or the starting players, it was because we did not start the game with the intensity or tempo. This gave confidence to the opponent.”
The former Southampton manager stressed the importance of this fixture by raising the six-point advantage Burnley currently have over them:
“This game and the one against Southampton are crucial to decide if we can believe something for the end of the season. It will be a good challenge.
“We have to start against Burnley. We have six points to make up against them.”
Since their first Premier League meeting in October 2014 (a 2-2 draw at King Power), Burnley have beaten the East Midlands outfit once, back in January 2017. Leicester City have the psychological upper hand with three other wins over the Lancashire side.
A potential Europa League spot is up for grabs here and both sides will be yearning for a place on the European stage (unless Southampton win the FA Cup).
I’d pick Burnley as favorites to come out on top given they’ve won three successive away matches on the spin – a feat that’s exceptionally remarkable for a club the size of their stature.