West Ham United vs Burnley Preview: Three huge points up for grabs
Burnley will be hoping for a repeat result of this fixture last season (photo: Getty Images)

West Ham United vs Burnley Preview: Three huge points up for grabs

Both sides are desperate for a victory after a poor run of form in recent weeks.

Chris Lincoln

Three months is a long time in football and that is certainly the case for the two Premier League sides who play in claret.

Following a summer spending spree on a series of high-profile names, West Ham fans were harbouring hopes of a possible push for Europa League qualification - looking to follow in the footsteps of Burnley who parted ways with very little funds in contrast but were dreaming of another top seven finish.

Looking over their shoulders

Ten Premier League matches on and both sides find themselves in identical positions - 11 points from the top seven and just three points above the drop zone with only two wins apiece.

And cracks appear to be disseminating in both camps. Manuel Pellegrini spent a chunk of his press conference defending the form of his players, in particular Felipe Anderson, whilst there are rumblings coming out of Turf Moor that defensive duo James Tarkowski and Ben Mee have fallen out.

With only one point in their last three games, maximum points this Saturday are critical for the short-term progress of both teams.

A series of stars sidelined

The hosts are without Mark Noble who serves the first game of a three-match suspension. The combative midfielder joins a host of West Ham stars on the sidelines, including Winston Reid, Manuel Lanzini, Carlos Sanchez, Andriy Yarmolenko, Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere.

However, they are bolstered by the return of Marko Arnautovic who was suffering from both illness and a knee injury. Left-back Aaron Cresswell is also available for selection.

Sean Dyche remains without Nick Pope and Stephen Ward, whilst Jack Cork faces a late fitness test. Ben Gibson is also likely to be unavailable but Aaron Lennon returns and could start ahead of Robbie Brady, who is lacking match fitness but showed glimpses of his quality against Chelsea last weekend.

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Contrasting styles

Burnley's 3-0 victory in this fixture last season launched a series of unsavoury scenes from the home fans as West Ham delved into turmoil. Yet the Lancashire side don't have a great history of travelling to the Hammers, losing five of their eight Premier League contests.

However, this contest provides an intriguing clash of styles. Burnley have won more aerial duels than any other side in the league thus far and West Ham have seen more headed efforts go against them than the rest of the Premier League sides. The likes of Sam Vokes will be looking to dominate the opposition box as the visitors go direct.

Yet Burnley have conceded more goals from outside the area than anyone else. Facing the likes of Arnautovic, Anderson and Robert Snodgrass, Joe Hart could expect a busy afternoon from range as he returns to another old club for the second time in a week. The hosts will be keeping the ball on the floor, particularly as they have not scored a headed goal all season.

Expect entertainment

Although the two sides combined average less than a goal per game, the first strike may not necessarily be critical. West Ham have dropped more points from winning positions than any other side in the top-flight, whilst Burnley have conceded nine in their last two games and not executed a 1-0 win since last December.

Fireworks may be limited in the absence of combative players such as Noble, Wilshere, Carroll, Gibson and possibly Cork but this game looks set to provide plenty of explosive moments in a crunch match for both clubs.