Burnley will take the trip to fellow relegation battlers Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon with neither side mathematically sure of their Premier League survival just yet.
Sean Dyche’s side have been dragged into the midst of a fight for survival after a lapse in recent form, and go into Saturday’s clash at Selhurst Park five points clear of Swansea in the drop zone.
Crystal Palace are also still not assured of their safety despite only losing two of their previous nine Premier League matches, but a win on Saturday could see them guaranteed survival.
Crystal Palace have been one of the most in-form sides in the Premier League recently, beating Arsenal, Liverpool and leaders Chelsea to all-but secure their great escape under Sam Allardyce.
The midweek loss to title-chasing Tottenham might have dampened spirits slightly around Selhurst Park, but there’s been a remarkable turnaround since Allardyce arrived over the festive period.
The visitors are a completely different story lately, with only the solitary victory in their previous eleven league matches as the newly-promoted side have struggled with results since the turn of the year.
It’s the away form that will worry Sean Dyche, however, as the Clarets are without an away win all season; four points from a possible 51 is the main reason as to why Burnley are dicing with the drop.
The big news prior to the match was the breaking story that Joey Barton has been banned from football for 18 months after being found guilty of charges in relation to betting.
This paves the way for Belgian international Steven Defour to return to the side after making only two appearances in Burnley’s last eleven league matches, partnering Jeff Hendrick in the midfield.
Sam Vokes should be fit enough to return up front alongside Andre Gray, whilst Sean Dyche will be sweating on the fitness of key centre-back Ben Mee after his injury against Manchester United.
For Palace, influential defender Mamadou Sakho could potentially be out for the rest of the season after suffering knee ligament damage during the loss against Tottenham during the week.
It’s unlikely that he’ll feature on Saturday, so James Tomkins is in line to return to the side alongside Martin Kelly in the Eagles’ defence, whilst Yohan Cabaye is expected to return to the midfield.
Match Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-0 Burnley
The last time these two sides met was in an enthralling encounter at Turf Moor, with Ashley Barnes’ stunning last-gasp effort clinching a 3-2 win for Burnley; yet expect a much cagier affair in this game.
Despite both realistically being safe, Burnley in particular will be having a nervous glance or two over their shoulder going into the match and Sean Dyche will want his side to secure the vital win.
Palace’s superb run of form over the past eight weeks has all-but secured their Premier League status for next year but count on Sam Allardyce wanting the momentum to continue against the Clarets.
It’s a game that neither side ideally want to lose, and with that in mind the outcome of a tight match could potentially boil down to either a moment of individual brilliance or a slip in concentration.