Still basking in the glory of an immediate return to the Premier League, Burnley cut the celebrations short to host second-placed Sheffield United in Easter Monday’s top-of-the-table Championship outing.
A 2-1 win at Middlesbrough sealed the Clarets’ promotion back to the big time on Friday evening, while the Blades cemented themselves in the runners-up spot with a 1-0 success over Wigan Athletic.
It was more than just a Good Friday for Vincent Kompany’s history-making charges at the Riverside Stadium, where a Middlesbrough side hitherto unbeatable at home under Michael Carrick stood in their way of an early ticket back to the Premier League.
With results earlier in the day going their way, Burnley knew that all three points on Boro’s turf would propel them into the top tier, and strikes from Ashley Barnes and Connor Roberts either side of Chuba Akpom’s penalty sparked wild celebrations for the Clarets faithful.
No team had ever sealed promotion from the Championship with seven games to spare before, and while the biggest box on Kompany’s checklist has now been crossed off, sealing title glory and attempting to surpass Reading’s all-time points record of 106 will prevent the Clarets from kicking their feet up just yet.
Holding an 11-point lead over upcoming opponents Sheffield United, Burnley are out to stretch their unbeaten Championship run to 20 matches on Monday, as well as maintaining their spectacular run without defeat in front of their own fans.
Since being welcomed back to the second tier, Burnley have swept aside almost all who have come before them at Turf Moor – taking 48 points from a possible 60 as the only team with an unbeaten home record still intact.
How Sheffield United would have loved to spoil the Burnley promotion party on Easter Monday, but the Blades cannot dwell on hypothetical scenarios now, as Paul Heckingbottom’s side look over their shoulder as much as they will continue to chase down the Clarets.
Friday’s clash with basement side Wigan Athletic was seemingly a foregone conclusion before the first ball was kicked, but the Blades lacked a cutting edge on the day and only scraped a one-goal victory thanks to Iliman Ndiaye’s close-range goal after eight minutes.
Nevertheless, results are far more important than performances at this stage of the campaign for Sheffield United, who hold an eight-point lead over Luton Town with a game in hand, but the Blades will not be embarking on their own promotion parade no matter what transpires this weekend.
Heckingbottom’s side bring a four-game winning streak in all competitions with them to Turf Moor – three of which have come in the Championship – and the Blades have also prevailed in each of their last three away matches since opening 2023 with a four-game winless run on the road.
One of just two defeats suffered by Burnley in the current Championship campaign came at the hands of Sheffield United in November, as the Blades trounced the Clarets in a 5-2 drubbing, but the hosts have not lost to their upcoming opponents at Turf Moor since the 2008-09 Championship campaign, when current Blades striker Billy Sharp was on target in a 2-1 success.
A slight dampener on Burnley’s near-perfect evening at the Riverside, top scorer Nathan Tella appeared to be struggling as he was replaced by Michael Obafemi in the dying moments, but the Southampton loanee was subsequently seen enjoying the celebrations to the maximum.
As a result, Darko Churlinov should be the Clarets’ only absentee as he continues to struggle with a leg problem, and Kompany is unlikely to grant any rest to his regular first-teamers given the magnitude of Monday’s contest, even with a top-two spot already rubber-stamped.
Regarding Sheffield United, Enda Stevens has suffered a setback in his recovery from a hamstring problem and remains out – one of four players dealing with injuries in that area alongside Ben Osborn, Rhys Norrington-Davies and Rhian Brewster.
Jack O’Connell continues to gradually build up his fitness on the training pitches, having been out since September 2020 following a double knee operation, while Ciaran Clark was an unused substitute against Wigan after shaking off a back spasm.
After three successive substitute outings, experienced midfielder Oliver Norwood could now be utilised from the first whistle, especially if Sharp’s 37-year-old legs are in need of a break.
Burnley possible starting lineup:
Muric; Roberts, Beyer, Al-Dakhil, Maatsen; Cullen, Brownhill; Tella, Gudmundsson, Zaroury; Barnes
Sheffield United possible starting lineup:
Foderingham; Robinson, Egan, Ahmedhodzic; Bogle, Norwood, Berge, Doyle, Baldock; McAtee; Ndiaye