Burnley succumbed to a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea on Thursday evening with a somewhat lacklustre performance. Usually a committed and organised outfit, the Clarets appeared tired both mentally and physically throughout the contest.
Shaqiri could be a threat in the mould of Giroud
Yet Burnley have the opportunity to put things right against struggling Stoke City on Sunday. Mark Hughes' side need to pick up wins fast to avoid relegation but have appeared bereft of ideas going forward.
However, Sean Dyche's Europa League hopefuls will have to be wary of a particular attacking talent in the home squad. Chelsea's Olivier Giroud caused a wealth of problems in the opening 45 minutes by picking up space between the lines and Stoke's Xherdan Shaqiri will look to do the same. Working off the left flank, the Swiss playmaker will have to be closely watched by the likes of Aaron Lennon, Matt Lowton and Jack Cork, with the latter patrolling the space between the lines.
Whilst Burnley struggled to keep Giroud quiet in the middle of the pitch, they also left gaps out wide, exploited by Victor Moses in particular. Stephen Ward was too easily shrugged off the ball by Moses before crossing for Chelsea's opener and then lost his man again for the winner. The whole Burnley defence will have to tighten up in the absence of Ben Mee, especially Kevin Long who got himself in an awkward position for the own goal.
Gudmundsson could be the key outlet
Burnley will have to be careful the tie does not descend into a physical battle. Stoke are well known for their aggressive approach and broke up the game for both West Ham United and Leicester City with a series of fouls in recent matches. Whilst a sheer lack of possession kept Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood quiet against Chelsea, such interventions from the Stoke defence will also make it hard for the Burnley strike force to stamp their authority on the game. The likes of Bruno Martins Indi and Kurt Zouma would much rather a physical battle than chasing Barnes down the channels.
Any inventive movement will cause Stoke problems on Sunday. Burnley's brightest moments against Chelsea occurred when Johann Berg Gudmundsson drifted off the left flank and into the middle of the park. Picking up such a position resulted in the Burnley equaliser.
It will be interesting to see who Dyche chooses for this encounter, particularly considering the fatigue that appeared to bestow the Clarets on Thursday evening. Whether Burnley have the ability to rotate and keep players fresh remains to be seen but with Thursday fixtures a possibility next season, more flexibility will be required in squad selection.
Whoever is chosen, if Burnley play with organisation and confidence, as they have done for most of the season, three points should be there for the taking. Yet another display like their previous fixtures could result in consecutive defeats.