Burnley battle to crucial point
Burnley return to Premier League action for only the third time this calendar year with Sean Dyche‘s side looking to build on a battling draw earned at Arsenal in the Clarets’ most recent outing. The goalless stalemate ended a run of three successive defeats and leaves the Lancashire outfit four points from safety with plenty of games in-hand on their rivals.
At Emirates Stadium, goalkeeper Nick Pope was forced into numerous saves to ensure a share of the spoils as Burnley began life without Chris Wood. Jay Rodriguez and Matej Vydra started up front together, but the pair rarely received the ball in attacking positions. Nevertheless, Dyche was delighted with the defensive performance of his side.
The Clarets have since bolstered the squad with the astute acquisition of striker Wout Weghorst from Wolfsburg. The 29-year-old is expected to go straight into the Burnley XI on Saturday with Dyche also welcoming Maxwel Cornet back from international duty. However, Josh Brownhill is suspended, whilst Ashley Barnes and Vydra are both rated doubtful.
Watford appoint Hodgson
Watford reacted quickly to a damaging 3-0 home defeat to fellow relegation scrapers Norwich by sacking Claudio Ranieri with the Hornets opting to bring Roy Hodgson in as the club’s new manager. The former England and Liverpool boss has been tasked with securing Premier League survival as the Hornets sit 19th, two points from safety with games in-hand.
Despite the plight of the Hertfordshire side, Hodgson is confident he can guide the group to safer waters, saying survival is: “More than possible. I wouldn’t have accepted the challenge had I not believed we could help the club stay in the Premier League. This league, in terms of relegation, is a dogfight but the players are good enough to keep them in the league.”
Watford were busy in the transfer market, bringing in three new defensive players early in the window before most recently adding Nigerian winger Samuel Kalu to the ranks. Even so, the Hornets are without star striker Emmanuel Dennis here through suspension, Peter Etebo isn’t yet fit to return whilst fit-again Ismaila Sarr is away on international duty.
Burnley have relished their most recent league meetings with Watford, returning W5-D5-L2 across the duos 12 head-to-heads since 2012. The Clarets have kept clean sheets in each of their last three encounters with the Hornets and also boast an impressive W7-D4-L1 record between the pair at their Turf Moor base dating back to 2004.
Burnley 2.305/4 have tasted success only once in the Premier League this term (W1-D9-L8). But due to various postponements the Clarets have only managed seven outings at Turf Moor, claiming a reasonable W1-D4-L2. Sean Dyche’s side have also posted a competitive W5-D6-L2 return when welcoming bottom-half sides since the start of last season.
Watford 3.6013/5 have taken a solitary point from a possible 24 since beating Manchester United 4-1 in November (W0-D1-L7), shipping 20 goals in that run, and leading to Claudio Ranieri’s departure. However, the Hornets have W2-D2-L1 in matches against fellow bottom-five opposition across the campaign, with both victories arriving on the road.
Considering the magnitude of the match, it’s surprising to see Under 2.5 Goals trading at 1.804/5. Six-pointers at the bottom end of the Premier League often tend to be attritional affairs and with wind and rain forecast for Burnley on Saturday, conditions could also play their part in a low-scoring showdown featuring fewer than three goals.
Burnley are well versed in tight tussles. The Clarets’ contests are averaging just 2.39 goals per-game with that figure dropping further when accounting only for Turf Moor tussles; the hosts are the division’s second-lowest goalscorers yet also boast the bottom-half’s best defensive record. Meanwhile, three of the hosts’ last six outings have ended goalless.
Watford are yet to keep a clean sheet since promotion, but the Hornets are expected to improve in terms of defensive organisation, structure and attitude under Roy Hodgson. The Hornets also head here without top goalscorer Emmanuel Dennis and so a much more pragmatic performance is anticipated as the visitors begin their new era.