Preview: Burnley vs. Sunderland

Burnley play host to Sunderland on Friday evening looking for the victory which will take the club to within six points of a return to the Premier League.

While the Clarets sit 13 points clear at the top of the Championship standings, Sunderland are down in 11th position, seven points adrift of the playoffs.

Match preview

Burnley manager Vincent Kompany celebrates after the match on March 11, 2023

Although defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup quarter-finals was probably expected, Burnley were brought back down to earth with a bump as they succumbed 6-0 to Vincent Kompany’s former side.

Pep Guardiola paid the runaway Championship leaders a compliment by naming a stronger team than expected, and the difference in quality and class was clear as City netted each of their goals during a 41-minute period either side of half time.

Despite that disappointment, Burnley can now focus on securing an immediate return to the top flight as soon as possible with just nine points being required from as many matches.

That feels like a formality at this stage, but Kompany will demand that there is no complacency with anything but securing the league title now deemed to be a huge letdown.

Nevertheless, Burnley are on a 17-match unbeaten streak in the league, and extending their unbeaten record at Turf Moor will strengthen their advantage over Sheffield United to more than 13 points.

Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray on February 21, 2023

From Sunderland’s perspective, their promotion challenge has started to peter out, the Black Cats having lost their way since they conceded a last-gasp equaliser at home to Bristol City on February 18.

Just five points have been collected from seven matches, and their bid to change their fortunes was not necessarily helped with a run against three fellow promotion contenders.

On some level, however, Tony Mowbray will be content with a recent four-point haul from meetings with Norwich City, Sheffield United and Luton Town.

The leveller versus the Hatters before the international break came four minutes from time, and the North-East outfit need to use that small bit of momentum to produce what will need to be their best performance of the season.

When the two teams met in the reverse fixture in October, Sunderland held a two-goal advantage at half time before remarkably losing by a 4-2 scoreline.

Team News

Dan Ballard in action for Northern Ireland in June 2022

While Kompany will first assess any Burnley players who have been away with their respective nations, he will want to name as strong a team as possible.

Reverting to a back four appears most likely, with Jack Cork, Josh Cullen and Johann Berg Gudmundsson taking the three central positions if no risks are taken on Josh Brownhill.

Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Jay Rodriguez could be in line to return to the squad, although Kompany may keep them on the substitutes’ bench at this stage of their comebacks from injury.

Amad Diallo is expected to remain among the Sunderland replacements having played 74 minutes for Ivory Coast on Tuesday.

Dan Ballard sustained an hamstring issue while representing Northern Ireland and will likely miss out, and the severity of Sunderland’s injury list may lead to a full-back deputising in the centre or a switch to a back three.

Burnley possible starting lineup:
Muric; Roberts, Dakhil, Beyer, Maatsen; Cullen, Cork; Tella, Gudmundsson, Zaroury; Barnes

Sunderland possible starting lineup:
Patterson; Gooch, Hume, Batth, O’Nien; Michut, Neil; Roberts, Ba, Clarke; Gelhardt

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