Analysis: How Burnley can secure European football this weekend

A win against Brighton and anything other than a victory for Leicester will ensure the Clarets are playing in the Europa League next season.

Analysis: How Burnley can secure European football this weekend
Gudmundsson's free-kicks could be critical on Saturday (photo: Getty Images / Matthew Peters)

Rewind eight months and this fixture would have been one both clubs may have been pinpointed as a potential relegation six-pointer. However, after a remarkable campaign, Brighton look almost certain to survive whilst Burnley are favourites to finish in the top seven.

Not much to choose between two sides strong at the back

Both teams can achieve their respective goals this weekend. A win for Burnley and anything other than a victory for Leicester City against Crystal Palace will have Clarets' fans ensuring their Thursday evenings are free next season. However, a victory for Brighton and defeat for Southampton against Bournemouth will confirm another season in the Premier League for the Seagulls.

So, how have the pre-season relegation candidates made it this far? Their defensive records certainly have something to do with it. Brighton have conceded 47 goals this season, the best record in the bottom half of the table by quite some distance. Similarly, only three teams in the entire league can boast a better defensive record than Burnley.

Yet with just 67 goals between them, finding the net has been hard to come by. For both teams, it has been a case of defending first and if they can snatch a goal going forward then that would be a bonus - 33% of matches they have played resulted in draws. Six of Burnley's 14 wins have been 1-0, a scoreline that Brighton have enjoyed in three of their eight victories.

When the teams met just before Christmas both sides failed to score. In fact, there were only nine shots on target with Burnley manufacturing seven of those. There have been two goals or less in 11 of the last 13 meetings with all of the last four ending in draws.

Where will the breakthrough come?

Expect direct football between two of the less glamorous sides in the league and some physical aerial duels. One in five Burnley passes go long, a similar record to Brighton who play one in six in the air, whilst neither side boast a pass success rate above 75%.

Both sides are adept at blocking shots and Brighton are particularly good at intercepting the ball in their own half. However, there is one area that could prove pivotal to potential breakthroughs in a match likely to be lacking goalscoring opportunities.

Brighton's number of unsuccessful tackles is almost as high as their successful ones. This has been a particular weakness in their game this season and has contributed to conceding 19 goals from set-pieces. With Burnley scoring eight of their 35 from such positions, such an area could be key on Saturday afternoon.

What a time for free-kick specialist Johann Berg Gudmundsson to be enjoying a return to fitness...