Burnley vs Sunderland Pre-match analysis: Plenty of similarities between two struggling teams

Burnley vs Sunderland Pre-match analysis: Plenty of similarities between two struggling teams

Burnley and Sunderland have similar weaknesses, though the former have edged crucial results.

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

If you have tickets for Burnley against Sunderland on Saturday afternoon, do not expect El Clasico style football between two teams destined for a relegation battle.

Yet despite a likely lack of quality on the pitch, there will not be many more important games to see out 2016 in the Premier League on New Years Eve.

Goals could be rare at Turf Moor

With 17 and 16 goals respectively this season, the fourth and second worst records in the top flight, you could be forgiven for thinking that both Burnley and Sunderland lack creative flair within their ranks. Yet both sides have created numerous chances this season, averaging around ten shots per match, they just have a weakness in converting their chances.

It is probable that Saturday's fixture will see a flurry of opportunities at both ends of the pitch. Despite holding defensive records that are comparibly good against the sides around them, both teams could be susceptible against the strengths of the opposing attackers.

Victor Anichebe has found renewed form in the North East and his strength will cause problems for the Burnley full-backs as he looks to drift into channels. Down the middle, if central defenders Ben Mee and Michael Keane do not close the black hole that has been appearing between them in recent weeks, veteran goalscorer Jermain Defoe will see chances lighting up before him. At the other end of the pitch, the determination and guile of both Andre Gray and Sam Vokes will put an error-prone Sunderland defence to the sword.

Yet two goal-shy strikeforces will face further difficulty when faced by the opposing goalkeeper. In Tom Heaton and Jordan Pickford, Burnley and Sunderland do not only boast two talented young English goalkeepers but also a pair of the best shot-stoppers in the Premier League. Although Pickford will be unavailable through injury, the Black Cats have a sufficient replacement in the experienced Vito Mannone.

Pickford (far left) and Heaton (far right) have both been pushing for the England number one spot (photo: Getty Images)
Pickford (far left) and Heaton (far right) have both been pushing for the England number one spot (photo: Getty Images)

Who will take control of possession?

Neither side are passing supremos either. With pass success rates of 68% and 72% respectively, expect a scrappy encounter to ensue. Burnley in particular are used to setting up for a counter-attack with an average possession per game of 41%, but with Sunderland registering identical statistics, the hosts could be obliged to play more of the ball. 

Another similarity between the teams is evident in set-piece situations. Both teams have conceded a high percentage of goals from dead balls, yet Sunderland have failed to register in attacking positions froms such opportunites. On the other hand, Burnley have netted six times with their aerial ability and could use this as a route to success.

Ultimately, the result could boil down to psychology. Despite the identical statistics, the contest sees one of the best home sides in the league against one of the poorest away teams. Burnley have the fifth best record at their own ground, whilst Sunderland have the fifth worst on their travels with just one away win. Yet stranger things have happened and Sean Dyche will have to ensure his side are ready for a final battle of 2016.

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