Burnley are at full strength in every area aside from right back, where Lowton serves a one match ban. He’s the only absentee in an otherwise fully fit squad and can be replaced well by Flanagan, leaving only a marginal difference in quality. A couple of tactical changes are likely, with Defour and Vokes set to return to the line-up for Barnes and Gray, giving more control in possession. Home form has been their saving grace this season, so they’ll absolutely be looking for all three points against a fellow promoted side. With a good atmosphere around the club they’ll fully believe a win is possible, though above all, they simply have to avoid defeat. They’ll try and get at Middlesbrough early, but if they can’t establish an early lead they’ll drop into a more balanced approach. They’re in decent scoring form at home and always offer a very high work rate on and off the ball that opponents can find hard to deal with. If they lead, they’ll become more cautious and counter-attacking, asking Middlesbrough to make the play, however if they trail they’ll throw men forward and take risks, with this not being a game they can really afford to lose in their battle against the drop.
Middlesbrough are missing just Fischer to injury as Aitor Karanka has a near full squad to choose from, with Ramirez and Stuani both overcoming injuries to be available. The former is expected to start, with the only change seeing Downing come in for Fischer, meaning Fabio keeps his place at left back ahead of Friend again, but if a change were made it wouldn’t leave the team any worse off. They’re in good spirits after a 3-0 win last time out and will travel to Burnley full of confidence. While they’ve struggled to pick up wins on the road this season, draws have been forthcoming and though they’ll see this as a winnable match, of the two teams they’d be more content with a point. They’ll take their usual patient approach, but quick counter attacks will also be a feature. Generally, they aren’t a high scoring team, so they won’t want to be chasing the game, particularly away from home, where they’re averaging under a goal a game this season. From behind they’d be more direct and forward thinking, but from there they’d be happy with a draw. If they got ahead they’d sit on a single goal, consolidating with possession, countering when possible to maintain a threat.
Verdict & Prediction
Despite losing four of their last five league games, Burnley are still in very good spirits, sitting out of the bottom three over Christmas, something they were hopeful of doing, rather than expecting before the season started. Confidence is decent and they’ll come into the game with belief. Home form has been the foundation of their season, so after back to back away trips they’ll be pleased to play in front of their own supporters again. A win against a fellow promoted team is the aim and will be viewed as a key match in their bid to avoid the drop. A draw would be taken, but they’re more ambitious than to settle for a point at home, particularly against a relegation rival. However, above all Sean Dyche will acknowledge that avoiding defeat is paramount, with every point crucial in their bid to stay in the top flight.
Prediction: Burnley +0.00 AH (same as Draw no bet)
Odds: 1.99 Pinnacle
Also, check out our preview for the match between Leicester and Everton.