Burnley are going through a formidable spell of home form. Here's Jack Pierce to take a look at them.
The last time Palace visited Burnley, I was told off by a very well spoken, old lady.
The reason? Checking my phone, I thought spy-like, during a theatre performance to check whether Palace had managed to come back from 2-0 down. The last I'd seen was 2-1 so you can imagine the joy of seeing the comeback had been completed by Punch and Dwight Gayle. I'd normally be a little embarrassed to be dressed down by a stranger in a theatre lobby but she clearly didn't realise that three points at Turf Moor were so bloody important!
Anyway, on to this weekend and what has become a fairly significant fixture for our lot. Defeat wouldn't be cataclysmic but it would certainly not discourage the anti-Pardew noise that's starting to pick up volume again. There’s anger brewing towards Super Al across the fanbase and he, more than anyone, could do with a Palace win come 4.50pm on Saturday.
Burnley won’t be pushovers and in Sean Dyche, they have a manager who will fight tooth and nail to ensure the relegation of two seasons ago isn’t repeated this time around and given how they have started this season, you’d have to say that they look far more equipped to stay up than they did this time two years ago. With a spine of Tom Heaton, Michael Keane, Steven Defour and Andre Gray, Burnley have gone toe to toe with most they’ve come up against and have already chalked up wins against both Merseyside teams when they’ve visited Turf Moor. Having witnessed Liverpool ourselves last weekend, it’s fair to say a team would have to be on fine form to earn three points from them even if Klopp’s side were a bit off colour on the day they visited Turf Moor.
The form of goalkeeper and captain, Tom Heaton, in recent weeks has been absolutely stunning. Man of the match in a 3-1 defeat at St Mary’s last month, his save from Zlatan Ibrahimovic last Saturday was up there with the best I’ve seen this season and I think it’s fair to say he felt it. As the ball got cleared, it was only then that he realised his arm was in bit of trouble. Thankfully for he and his side, there’s no lasting damage and he’s expected to be in goal charged with denying Christian Benteke and co.
Michael Keane, another excellent performer thus far, is likely to attract attention come January from sides further up the league with Leicester, Chelsea and Everton all known to be keen on the former Manchester United youngster. Burnley’s hierarchy will be more than aware that letting go of someone so vital to their hopes of staying up mid-season would be madness but given the ridiculous sums of money now thrown about, they will have to resist the temptation to cash in on Keane if the bids to start to come in. Given that the club rebuffed bids of £17m-plus in the summer; you would anticipate Burnley won’t pick up the phone for less than £25m considering the cost to replace the centre half.
Dyche was on FiveLive’s Monday Night Club a few weeks back and offered a really interesting point of view in comparison to the likes of Chris Sutton and Danny Mills speaking for the sake of it. He spoke quite candidly about his first few months in charge of The Clarets and that while the board supported him, he was aware of the pressure he was under and certainly has an appreciation of the position he is in having gained promotion twice. He’s shown enough as manager of both Watford and Burnley to indicate he’s got a smart mind and this season has shown he’s comfortable going head to head with some of the world’s most high profile coaches. There will be lulls between now and the end of the season but if Dyche can lead his side to victories at home against the likes of, I dare say, our lot, they’ll be well placed to avoid ending the season in the bottom three, particularly with Sunderland so keen to keep one of the spots to themselves all season long.
It would be amiss and a massive exaggeration to state that Saturday’s match is must-win but it’s certainly fairer to say that, if Pardew and his players want to halt the negative air brewing around the place, it might be considered must-not-lose.
Jack is our regular Eye on the Opposition contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.