Burnley can take another step towards sensationally securing European football if they can beat relegation-threatened Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Victory for the Clarets would see them open up an eleven-point gap over eighth-placed Leicester City, who have just four games remaining. Seventh would be enough to ensure a Europa League spot provided Southampton do not spring an enormous surprise by winning the FA Cup.
However, they face a Stoke side who are fighting for their lives and looking to seize a crucial opportunity to move within two points of safety.
Burnley looking to return to winning ways
Having not won since December, Burnley began an impressive five-game winning run at the beginning of March, beating Everton, West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion, Watford and Leicester. That superb run of form, however, came to an end in midweek as Sean Dyche’s men fell to a 2-1 defeat in a scrappy clash with Chelsea.
They will still be harbouring hopes of a spectacular sixth-place finish, with this weekend’s game followed by the visit of Brighton & Hove Albion and what could prove an all-important trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal.
Stoke’s sole source of motivation is Premier League survival, but the Potters are currently enduring the longest winless run in the division, having last claimed three points in Paul Lambert’s first game against Huddersfield Town. They have not ran out victorious in the ten games since, and their confidence was dealt a brutal blow last time out when Andy Carroll’s late strike cancelled out Peter Crouch’s opener to deny them a precious triumph.
Key stats: Burnley look to end half-century drought
Stoke hoped Lambert’s arrival would inject life into their survival bid, but the Scot has amassed only eight points from a possible 33. The home side have shipped 63 goals this season – more than any other Premier League team.
They are facing their fourth consecutive loss on home turf, which would represent their worst run since 1985 and they have won only one of their games against teams in the top half this season (a 2-1 victory against Arsenal in August), but they have won two (and lost one) of their three home PL games against Burnley.
Sunday’s visitors won the reverse fixture courtesy of Ashley Barnes’s winner, but have not recorded a top-flight double against Stoke since 1967/68. Barnes is the form man, having netted five goals in last seven games but after the Austrian played ninety minutes in midweek, Chris Wood, who has bagged five away goals this term, may be Burnley’s main outlet.
Team news: Late fitness concern for Clarets
Burnley will be sweating over the fitness of centre-back James Tarkowski, who sustained a knock against Chelsea on Thursday. They are already without Ben Mee, sidelined by a shin injury, with winger Scott Arfield (calf), forward Jon Walters, central midfielder Steven Defour and left midfielder Robbie Brady (all knee) also confined to the treatment table for the moment.
Stoke, meanwhile, have been boosted by the return of Charlie Adam, who has returned from a three-match ban, while Glen Johnson could also be back in fold after recovering from a groin problem. However, they will be without influential attacker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who has been directly involved in ten goals this season.