Crystal Palace vs Burnley pre-match analysis: Slipping Clarets need the points to hone in on safety

Crystal Palace vs Burnley pre-match analysis: Slipping Clarets need the points to hone in on safety

Burnley are only five points above the drop zone with their poor away form beginning to show them up.

Chris Lincoln

Only a couple of weeks ago you would have found Burnley sitting comfortably mid-table and Crystal Palace languishing just above the relegation zone. Yet at a critical point in the season, the sides find themselves in role reversal as the visitors begin life without Joey Barton.

Palace set to dominate midfield

Barton has been a key player for Burnley this season and he will undoubtedly be missed in the middle of the park after receiving an 18-month ban for gambling offences. Yet now is the time for the players who plied their trade around him to step up to the plate and keep the Clarets in the top flight.

It will be no easy task on Saturday without Barton as Jeff Hendrick, who has received an abundance of criticism from his own fans, looks to dominate the central areas. He is likely to be joined in midfield by January signing Ashley Westwood who has failed to hold down a first-team place.

They are faced by a rejuvenated Crystal Palace midfield under Sam Allardyce. Jason Puncheon was handed the captain's armband when Allardyce arrived and has promptly rediscovered the ability he is capable of. An energetic workload combined with the craft of Yohann Cabaye will aim to put the new look Burnley midfield to the sword at Selhurst Park.









Injuries to Mee and Sakho could open up the game at both ends

Burnley will also have to remain resolute in wide areas as the trickery of Andros Townsend and craft of Wilf Zaha look set to test Burnley's full-backs. Matt Lowton and Stephen Ward appear to have improved across the season but face one of the Premier League's in-from plays in Zaha.

Their role will be to thwart the delivery to Christian Benteke. With Ben Mee looking likely to be absent, Michael Keane is without his regular defensive partner as Burnley look to keep out the powerful striker who has 14 goals to his name this season.

Yet there is hope for the visitors at the other end as they seek their first win of the season on the road. Palace are without defensive lynchpin Mamadou Sakho who has undoubtedly tightened up their back four under Allardyce. The speed and graft of Ashley Barnes and Andre Gray will look to put a nervy defence in his absence under pressure.