Ask The Opposition – Burnley vs Manchester City (w/ Andy Jones)

Manchester City travel to Turf Moor on Tuesday night to face a Burnley side that have been the cause of a few frustrating encounters in recent years. Pep Guardiola’s side come into the game off the back of a 2-2 draw at Newcastle, that has left the champions 11 points off the pace in the hunt for the Premier League title. Burnley come into Tuesday’s clash off a similarly poor result – a 0-2 home defeat to Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Ahead of this one, we spoke to the Burnley correspondent for the AthleticAndy Jones. We get his thoughts on a number of topics including the Claret’s confidence going into this one, their impressive start to the campaign, and where Sean Dyche’s side could possibly cause the blues a few problems in Lancashire.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Thanks for joining us ahead of this one Andy. Manchester City suffered yet another setback in the ‘title race’ on Saturday, with the 2-2 draw at Newcastle leaving Guardiola’s side with an almost impossible task of chasing down Liverpool. Do you feel City’s defensive woes are giving Sean Dyche and his player’s added confidence going into this one?

I think it is fair to say that there is a certain vulnerability defensively from Manchester City this season which teams have been able to exploit compared to the past couple of seasons. I think Burnley will take confidence from the previous two home games against City where they have made it very difficult for the reigning Premier League champions and last season, the game was decided by a matter of inches.

Had Burnley’s result against Crystal Palace been different then the answer would be a definite ‘yes’ in terms of general confidence going into the game. They will be looking to bounce back from that disappointing defeat and they will come into the game looking to ask questions of Manchester City and cause them as many problems as they can.

The battle between Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood, John Stones and Fernandinho (providing they all start) is going to be very interesting. If the front two can cause problems then Burnley will be in a position to potentially affect the game positively for themselves.

Manchester City are a brilliant side though, and Sean Dyche and his side will be prepared to face a team looking to bounce back from their own disappointing result and a side that can blow any team away. Burnley haven’t been great at the back at home against the other top six sides so far this season (they conceded three to Liverpool and four to Chelsea) so defensively they will need to be tight and look to make it as difficult as possible for City. 

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Despite defeat on Saturday, Burnley are enjoying a remarkable start to the campaign. What would you put this success down to?

I think there are a number of reasons as to why Burnley have started the campaign well. The first is that they are scoring plenty of goals which is always key when trying to win games. Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes have continued the form they showed in the second half of last season which always makes Burnley a threat even if they aren’t playing particularly well in a game.

Their home form has also been good against teams around them with wins over Southampton, Norwich, Everton and West Ham, keeping clean sheets in all of them but Crystal Palace on Saturday was a disappointing result. They have been at their best when they have been able to hit Wood and Barnes with vertical passes and then feed off the second balls before being efficient in their use of the ball to create chances quickly.

Burnley have looked to play on the front foot as much as possible this season and pen teams into their own half and force turnovers in possession. The best example of that so far this season was against Norwich when the away side couldn’t get near the halfway line at Turf Moor such was the relentless nature of the press in the first 35 minutes of the game. As usual the side features the typical methods of a Sean Dyche team and that is to work hard both in and out of possession and never give the opposition a minute of peace.

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With relatively limited cashflow in comparison to the other sides in the top half of the current league standings, what do you Burnley fans genuinely feel they can achieve as a club or what should their ambitions be, should they secure their place within the top ten this season?

In terms of this campaign, I think it is difficult to give a firm answer to a league position target, given the nature of the league so far this season. It is so tightly bunched that one or two wins or defeats can completely change the outlook on a side’s league position. I think currently though there is no reason why a top ten finish isn’t possible. I think a European push like they had a couple of seasons ago is unlikely but never say never.

If they keep the squad relatively healthy and Wood and Barnes continue to fire in the goals then a top ten position certainly looks achievable which after last season would be clear progress for Sean Dyche’s side. In terms of looking beyond that, the aim is to continue to keep themselves in the Premier League and look to develop and progress year on year. The finances at the club are low compared to some of the other teams which makes recruitment difficult but the job Sean Dyche has done so far is brilliant and the fan’s will hope he can continue that for a long time.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Let’s talk managers, or coaches. With Arsenal’s vacant managerial position at the Emirates, both Mikel Arteta and Sean Dyche have been mooted as potential successors to Unai Emery. Despite Arteta possibly being the more likely to make the move, who do you feel would have the greater impact out of the two men, should one of them make the switch?

Firstly, I think it is very unlikely that Sean Dyche will be getting the Arsenal job. What he would do though would be to instill a culture and mentality like he has at Burnley with the aim of turning the situation round at Arsenal. As I said though, I can’t see Dyche becoming manager there and that is meant with no disrespect because the job he has done at Burnley is fantastic, I just don’t think Arsenal would be looking in his direction.

Mikel Arteta though looks like he could be one of the favourites. It would be an interesting move for Arteta who has a good relationship with the Arsenal fans and was a potential successor to Arsene Wenger when he stepped down from his position and Emery was appointed. I think learning under Guardiola will have taught Arteta a lot and that can only serve as a positive if he was to be appointed but of course being the manager compared to the assistant manager is a big jump and it would be interesting to see what would happen. 

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Burnley’s amazing start to the campaign can be accredited to a number of standout performers so far, including Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood. But who should City view as the Claret’s most dangerous players going into Tuesday night?

I think you have mentioned two of the danger men there. Wood and Barnes have built an outstanding partnership between them in 2019 and when they have started together, before Saturday they had scored 30 goals in 30 games together. Their aerial presence will be a test for the Manchester City centre backs and Wood will be playing on the shoulder of the last defender to try and get in behind the City backline and stretch the play. 

Dwight McNeil is also a big danger man for City. The 20-year-old just continues to get better and better in a Burnley shirt and has taken his game up another level this season. He is direct in his running and will look to hit the byline and cut crosses back for Wood and Barnes to get on the end of. He will also play a big part in Burnley counter-attacking Manchester City because he is very good at dribbling the ball forward and keeping hold of it for a long period while moving forward, before somehow gaining a yard and whipping in a dangerous cross when you don’t expect it. His influence and how much Burnley can get him on the ball will be key. 

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

How do you see this game panning out?

I think it is difficult to see past Manchester City having a lot of the ball and Burnley having to defend fairly deep to try and limit the amount of clear chances that Manchester City can create. Burnley will look to use the aerial strength of Wood and Barnes to force Manchester City back as they will be up against potentially Stones and Fernandinho and the two Burnley strikers will fancy their chances of winning their individual battles.

Burnley have been at their best this season when they have been able to win second balls in the middle of the park and that will be crucial. They will try and get up the pitch and then press Manchester City when the opportunity allows. The central midfield pair of Burnley, whether that be Westwood and Cork, or Cork and Hendrick, will have a lot of work to do and will need support from Barnes dropping in.

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Burnley Starting XI prediction, and score prediction?

Burnley have a couple of question marks going into the game on the injury front. I think the team will be very similar to the one which started against Crystal Palace, with one or two tweaks depending on the injury status of a couple of players. Charlie Taylor limped off before half time against Palace so is unlikely to feature.

Ashley Westwood has a slight problem with his groin and missed the game against Crystal Palace due to suspension. He is crucial to the way Burnley play though and if he is fit then I think Burnley will line-up as follows:

Pope, Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Pieters, Hendrick, Westwood, Cork, McNeil, Wood, Barnes.

If Westwood isn’t fit then I think it will be a similar line-up to the one Dyche selected against Palace with Pieters coming in for Taylor. Danny Drinkwater is fit after his spell on the sidelines and he could also be considered for his first league start for Burnley but this would be a tough game to throw him in to.
I think that Manchester City will just have too much for Burnley but the games in the last couple of years have been quite close so I’m going to go – Burnley 1-2 Manchester City.

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You can follow our guest here: @adjones_journo

You can follow the author on twitter here: @FreddiePye_ | @City_Xtra

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