Opposition Focus | Burnley

Dan Black, the Clarets' correspondent at the Burnley Express, tells us what to expect from Sean Dyche's men when we make the trip to Turf Moor on Saturday.

First all, what a terrible blow it must have been to receive the news Robbie Brady will miss the rest of the season...

“It's a big blow as he's just been hitting top form. He did it against Leicester. It was a collision on the edge of the box with Harry Maguire. He cut into the box, shot with right foot and then as he was closed down by Magure, his standing leg gave way. You could see the knee jolt and he signalled straight away he was in trouble. He was immense form in the last three or four games and was the real creative player we'd hope we'd signed. His delivery has been excellent and his workrate impeccable. He scored a very good goal against Bournemouth, too. It's a big blow.”

Any other injury doubts or concerns?

“You've just got the long-term ones, like Tom Heaton who has been out since the Palace game with his shoulder. They are looking to get him back involved around the New Year. Dean Marney has been out for a while and been getting more game-time with the U23s. He may be pushing to feature after the injury to Brady.”

Does Dyche have any selection headaches?

“It will be a toss up between Bardsley and Matt Lowton at right-back and will depend on Lowton's fitness. Bardsley has done very well in Lowton's recent absence. Scott Arfield will come for Brady but other than that, I can't see there being other issues. He has played Barnes, Vokes and Wood up front but Wood will start. He's in good form and has six goals this season.”

Nick Pope will start in goal. What a find he has been in the wake of the injury to Tom Heaton...

“Pope has been excellent. There was slight concern when Heaton picked up that shoulder injury but Pope has slotted in seamlessly. He's been so confident and composed and you'd never have guessed he hadn't played Premier League football before. He's not looked out of place one bit and has six clean sheets. He has been helped by the defence, though.”

Robbie Brady is set to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury

Too right. You've only conceded 12 goals this season which is the third best defensive record in the league.

“It's been remarkable. They are very good, so organised and so disciplined. They move up the field so well together and are such a well-oiled unit. Dyche has got them so well drilled. Teams find it so hard to get in behind them and they've not conceded many as a result. Teams have to shoot from distance and, as a result, they are not conceding many shots on target. For example, the penalty Arsenal got against us in the 92nd minute was only their second shot on target. If you are limiting teams like that to two shots then you are doing something right.”

Your manager is certainly doing something right. Indeed, it was a surprise he wasn't more heavily linked with the vacancy at Everton.

“I just don't think he's a sexy enough name. It was the same in the summer with Palace, where the board and the owners have different ideas and they've decided not to proceed down the Sean Dyche route. It's great for us but I'm just very, very surprised Everton didn't talk to him. He's every bit as good as Silva if not better. You just have to look at what he's achieved: two promotions and now a second season in the Premier League where they are now in the European places and all on a relatively limited budget. Dyche and Marco Silva are undoubtedly two of the best managers in the Premier League.”

Dyche always has his team pumped up but he seems to put a bit of extra air in the tyres when the Hornets are in town.

“There is certainly a little bit of history there and I think Dyche always enjoys coming up against Watford. I don't think there are any hard feelings. Dyche always says he enjoyed his time at Watford and then the new owners came in and had different ideas. It's just the way football works. He obviously didn't suit the blueprint they had and they wanted to go in a different direction.”

You've got another Watford old boy in your ranks in Jack Cork...

“Dyche knew Cork from Watford and he's someone who he has monitored since. He's been very good for us, brilliant on the ball and a good calming influence on the team. He was fully deserving of his England call-up. He's scoring quite a few goals with his head – he must get that from his dad.”

Former Hornet Jack Cork has been a calming influence on the Burnley midfield

One player who has made the opposite journey is Andre Gray. What sort of reception will he get on his return to Turf Moor?

“It will be a mixed one. Some will appreciate everything he did for us. He scored a lot of goals, 25 in the league I think it was and he and Vokes helped the club massively that season. He was voted Championship Player of the Year and got in the PFA Team of the Year, so that shows you just what he did for us. Fans will view it differently. Some will be appreciative of everything he did for the club, while others will feel he turned his back on them. The money offered for him was too good to turn down. It was a good move for all parties.”

Have you seen much of our re-energised side this season?

“I've seen Watford play a few times and each time I see a different team. I get the impression they are quite unpredictable. I saw the United game and I was surprised with the first-half display and how easily United carved them open. But then Watford came back so well in the second half. You just don't know what you are going to get. I watched them against Chelsea and they get forward really well and really work the space. Richarlison could have had a couple and that would have put them out of sight at one point. And that's against the champions, so you're clearly a decent side.”

And, finally, how do you see Saturday's game going?

“My prediction is 1-1. There is a certainly a lot of creativity in this Watford side and you are capable of scoring goals but Burnley don't concede many. So I'd suggest you'll score but I'd back us to score at home, too. I'm looking forward to it – it should be a good game between the two teams who are definitely the surprise packages of the season. Both have performed above and beyond this season and it's funny to think so many were predicting Watford and Burnley to struggle. For us two to be seventh and eighth is a superb achievement. It appears Silva has had the same impact at Watford as Dyche has had at Burnley.”


Loan Lads | Zárate Strikes Again

Mauro Zárate made it three goals in as many games for Al Nasr in the UAE Arabian Gulf League as he got the opening strike in a 2-1 defeat at home to high-flying Al-Ain.

Al-Nasr currently sit sixth in the league and despite not finding the net for his side in his first four league outings, the Argentinian has certainly hit some form of late.

Following on from helping Morocco reach their first World Cup tournament since 1998, Nordin Amrabat played for the role of super sub for Leganés as he came off the bench to assist two late goals and earn the Madrid-based side all three points in a 3-1 win at home to Villarreal.

Victory on Sunday helped 'Los Legionaries' to continue exceeding all expectations as they sit seventh in La Liga, in just their second ever season in Spain’s top division.

Adalberto Peñaranda is yet to get off the mark for Málaga as they continue to struggle in La Liga. The southern Spanish side remain bottom of the table after a goalless draw with Levante at La Rosaleda on Friday night, a game in which the Venezuelan played just under an hour.

Elsewhere in Spain, Costel Pantilimon made his first appearance in almost a month for Deportivo de La Coruña as they were knocked out of the Copa Del Rey despite winning 3-2 at Las Palmas, suffering a 6-4 defeat on aggregate.

Closer to home, Dennon Lewis - who hasn't started in the league since mid-October - played the full 90 minutes as Crawley Town crashed out of the Checkatrade Trophy with a 3-1 defeat by Fulham Under-21s at the aptly-named Checkatrade.com Stadium.

Finally, Obbi Oularé continues his recovery from a muscular tear he suffered one month ago. His Antwerp side currently sit sixth in the Belgian Jupiler League.