As the Premier League is inching towards the finale, Burnley will face North West giants Manchester United at Turf Moor in a game whose high stakes could not be higher for both sides.
Sean Dyche’s Burnley have had a stellar campaign in their 21,401 capacity home in Lancashire winning 10 out of 14 games – accruing 32 points out of their overall total of 36. They have the sixth best home record in the country and the best among teams in the bottom half. Not really threatened by the prospect of relegation, the Clarets have tailed off in recent weeks winning just 1 in 10 games in the Premier League. But with their opposition running low on gas following a 120-minute struggle in midweek, Dyche should be eyeing a massive win on Sunday, which should see them finish closer to the upper mid-table sides than the opposite end.
For Manchester United, this is a massive game for different reasons. Despite their progression to the semi-final of the Europa League, the Red Devils cannot afford to lower their guard in the Premier League at a stage where anything can happen and one good weekend could take them near the top four places. With rivals Man City engaged in FA Cup duties, United have the opportunity to close the gap to one point ahead of their meeting in the Manchester derby the following mid-week. They are still on an unbelievable 22-game unbeaten run – the longest in Europe, but will need more than a draw to keep the pressure intact on the teams around them on Sunday.
Sean Dyche says Sam Vokes and Scott Arfield are ‘touch and go’ but will be boosted by the return of Johann Berg Gudmundsson who is back in contention to feature in the weekend. It remains to be seen whether midfielder Joey Barton could be involved, who is waiting on a court hearing, regarding betting allegations.
United are facing another injury crisis – with three of their four regular center-backs unavailable for the trip to Burnley. Talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic alongside Juan Mata, is also ruled out after the forward suffered an injury on Thursday leaving them short in attacking positions. Wayne Rooney however, is expected to start after the skipper was named as an unused substitute against Anderlecht.
Man Utd have scored at least 3 goals in their last 3 away matches (Premier League).
The Red Devils have failed to score in two of their last three visits to Turf Moor.
Michael Keane – Burnley
Center-back Michael Keane has been dominating the news lately with reports surfacing that the ex-Manchester United defender will not extend his stay at Burnley beyond the Summer. Manager Sean Dyche has addressed the rumors himself in the press conference with a straight bat – he said,
“He is under contract and if anything happens it will be appropriate to all parties and fit in with all parties. We are a different animal from what we were a few years ago. We are in a very strong business situation. The thing that has changed massively in my time here is we now control these situations.”
Whatever happens beyond this season, Keane is their best center-back and one of the key players behind Burnley’s compactness at home (conceded only 14 as opposed to 33 on the road) and will remain that way when he comes up against boyhood club on Sunday.
Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
Another youngster from the famed Manchester United youth academy, Rashford has had a very good season under Mourinho – played over 1000 minutes for the club and scored 10 goals in all competitions. The 19-year old did suffer a drought in the league for a long period but in recent weeks (3 goals in the last 3 games in all competitions) he has truly emerged into one of United’s vital players and will be crucial in the run-in which includes a two-legged semi-final in the Europa League.
Burnley will look to take advantage of United’s fatigue on Sunday. But Mourinho’s men have developed a resilience that even the league leaders found hard to break down. Score draw, for me.
Burnley 1-1 Manchester United