With Burnley just a week away from making their return to European football, we take a look at how preparations have been progressing for Sean Dyche's squad.
Refreshed and raring to go
Unlike the majority of Premier League sides, the Clarets saw very few of their squad fly to Russia for the World Cup. A strong Irish contingent failed to help their nation qualify for the prestigious competition whilst the likes of James Tarkowski, Tom Heaton and Steven Defour missed out on selection for their respective countries.
With only Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Nick Pope boarding planes to Eastern Europe, Dyche has benefitted from a large percentage of his squad returning to the Barnfield Training Centre early in pre-season.
As always, fitness was the core element for the opening training sessions and the process was ramped up when the squad travelled to Cork for a five-day training camp. The short tour concluded with a friendly against Cork City last Friday evening before the squad was split in half for parallel friendlies against Blackpool and Shrewsbury Town at Barnfield on Tuesday.
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Westwood and Walters working through the gears
Dyche will be delighted to see the majority of his squad notch up valuable minutes with only Gudmundsson, Pope, Defour and long-term absentee Robbie Brady yet to feature. Pope is still on leave, whilst the other three stalwarts are working through individual training plans to restore their fitness levels.
Although the results may not encourage too much optimism around Turf Moor, particularly after defeats to both Blackpool and Shrewsbury, there have been some positives for Dyche to take out of the opening three matches.
Burnley have dominated possession in each of the contests. Ashley Westwood ran the show in the second half against Cork and it was his corner that created the only goal of the match. The central midfielder also looked strong during 90 minutes against Shrewsbury. Similarly, veteran Jon Walters' thoughtful teamplay will not be going unnoticed after creating several chances for colleagues.
A trio of youngsters have also taken their chance to impress in the opening fixtures. Winger Dwight McNeil made his debut on the final day of last season and looked dangerous both on the flank and from set-pieces against Cork and Blackpool. 20-year old Aiden O'Neill is the only player to have made it through two full matches whilst Jimmy Dunne's smart volley is Burnley's only goal in the three games.
Pressure on the strikers
Welsh striker Sam Vokes was kept in the shadows by Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes last season but has looked dangerous in the opening friendlies. Strong on the ball and dangerous in the air, Vokes has gone close on several occasions whilst Barnes is struggling for fitness and did not feature against Blackpool or Shrewsbury.
Dan Agyei and Nakhi Wells will both be hoping for a breakthrough season during 2018/19 but they will need to score regularly to bypass the aforementioned trio of strikers in Dyche's thoughts. Agyei missed a handful of opportunities against Shrewsbury whilst Wells saw a shot cleared off the line against Blackpool.
Burnley now set their sights on simultaneous matches against Curzon Ashton and Macclesfield Town on Friday evening before visiting Preston North End on Monday. All eyes then turn to Aberdeen...