Pre-match analysis: Can Burnley break down a stubborn Southampton defence?

The Saints boast six consecutive clean sheets in all competitions.

Pre-match analysis: Can Burnley break down a stubborn Southampton defence?
Defour will be Burnley's main hope (photo: Getty Images)

Burnley make the long trip to Southampton with the odds firmly stacked against them on Sunday evening. Sean Dyche will hope his squad can find a loophole in a solid Saints backline as they seek to push away from the relegation zone.

A lack of firepower against the iron gates

With just sixteen shots on target in their opening seven games and arguably their most prolific goalscorer Andre Gray still serving a suspension, goals for Burnley are likely to be few and far between. Add to the equation the statistic that Southampton have kept six consecutive clean sheets with Virgil van Dijk marshalling a solid unit, you wonder if Sean Dyche's men will be able to register at St Mary's. Much of the onus will lay on the shoulders of Belgium international Steven Defour who has played a part in 80% of Burnley's goals this season.

One potential area of weakness for Southampton could be on the left side of their defence. With Ryan Bertrand definitely unavailable and Matt Targett struggling for fitness, the Saints could be without a recognised left-back. If this is the case, Burnley will use the likes of Defour and George Boyd to target this area as a potential way in behind the Southampton backline. Cedric Soares is also missing on the right side, giving Burnley further hope down the flanks.

Fraser Forster has not been beaten in over nine hours of football (photo: Getty Images)
Fraser Forster has not been beaten in over nine hours of football (photo: Getty Images)

A dilemna for Southampton

Although Burnley have only mustered a league-low five goals this season, Southampton have managed just two more. Burnley offer the best defence in the bottom half of the league, noticed by Gareth Southgate who gave Michael Keane his first England call-up last week. Claude Puel likes to pack the centre of midfield with a trio, though he has very little in the way of creative players in the middle of the park. With main goal threat Shane Long injured, Southampton could find it harder than expected to break down Burnley on Sunday.

Puel is also faced with an interesting dilemma of how to approach the game. He likes to set his side to contain and use the pace of Nathan Redmond and Dusan Tadic on the counter-attack. Yet Southampton will have to formulate a different approach as they will be gifted the majority of possession. Burnley have averaged just 36.8% of the ball, less than any other side in the league. Sunday's contest will question Saints' ability to use the ball effectively to break down one bank of four and another of five in front of Tom Heaton.