Preview: Burnley

Six points from four games has turned what threatened to become an insurmountable gap from safety for Coventry City into one that may soon be within reach. There may come a time where the Sky Blues will need to add greater attacking threat on top of this newfound defensive solidity, but keeping the points ticking over right now is helping this team regain confidence.

It is recently-relegated Burnley next up for Coventry City, which will pose a similar kind of challenge as the one faced at Bristol City in midweek of facing a possession-hungry opponent. The focus for this game will be on maintaining the solidity at the back, in the hope that Burnley can be frustrated and then something can happen on the counter. With a win potentially lifting the Sky Blues off the bottom of the table, there is a chance to take a significant step forward here.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Wilson; Doyle, McFadzean, Panzo; Dabo, Eccles, Sheaf, Bidwell; Allen; Godden, Gyokeres.
Possible Line-Up

There doesn’t appear to be much change on the team news front for Coventry City heading into this game. Long-term absentees, Callum O’Hare and Liam Kelly, look set to be sensibly phased back slowly in by Mark Robins, meaning that this game is likely to be too early for them despite being having returned to training over the past week or so. Additionally, Gustavo Hamer is mid-way through a four-game suspension, meaning the manager has the same set of players to pick from as he has over the past two matches.

It was a surprise to see Kasey Palmer not only start on Tuesday night but last the whole 90 minutes. Perhaps it was a case of Mark Robins deciding to prioritise the Bristol City game over this one, but it would be remarkable to see Palmer start a third game in a row given his well-publicised fitness issues and how fatigued he looked beyond the half hour mark in midweek.

Pushing Jamie Allen up into the attacking midfield role and bringing Josh Eccles into central midfield looks the likeliest move if Palmer is rotated out of the side. That would provide the team with additional security in midfield against Burnley’s likely dominance of possession, with the alternative of playing Martyn Waghorn just behind the strikers too gung-ho of a move for this kind of game.

The other decision to make is what to do with Matt Godden in attack given his recent run of form. Mark Robins may still be on the side of handing Godden further time to both rediscover his mojo and forge a relationship with Viktor Gyokeres as he brings a greater guarantee of goals than his alternatives, Tyler Walker and Martyn Waghorn. However, this game could be the one where the manager tries something else in attack – probably Tyler Walker – and hands Godden the opportunity to make something happen later on from the bench.

Last Time We Met

Coventry City’s last meeting with Burnley came following the Easter capitulation at Bristol City that all but secured Andy Thorn’s Sky Blues’ relegation to League One. Travelling to Turf Moor, Coventry City knew that only a win would do, but Andy Thorn set up the team far too passively and fell behind to a Charlie Austin header from a Ross Wallace cross.

Although the Sky Blues found an equaliser thanks to Clive Platt, it was too little, too late. In fact, Coventry City were fortunate that relegation was not confirmed on that day after going down to ten men late-on as Cyrus Christie picked up an injury after the tactical genius that was Andy Thorn had made all of his substitutions, and Burnley had several late chances that Joe Murphy did well to keep out.

Because the highlights of that game do not exist on YouTube, how about the highlights from the other game between the two sides earlier in the season?

The Opposition

The Manager – Vincent Kompany

A legend of the Premier League-era as a player for Manchester City, Vincent Kompany has begun a fledgling managerial career looking to follow a similar identity to the club he was synonymous with. Appointed by Burnley this summer following a mixed spell at Anderlecht, Kompany is a manager who is very much focused on the process of building a style of play over chasing results outright. For a club that may well need to return to the top-flight quickly, it is a curious appointment.

Vincent Kompany has been given free rein since arriving over the summer to tear up what had been such a successful formula under Sean Dyche and implement a more dynamic, possession-orientated brand of football based around young, skilful footballers. Burnley’s ability to keep the ball has been their key area of strength thus far, which has seen them dominate matches and lose just one game. However they have dropped a lot of points from winning positions due to a lack of the ability to finish teams off, while also being a touch soft at the back.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Muric; Roberts, Harwood-Bellis, Beyer, Maatsen; Cullen, Cork; Gudmundsson, Brownhill, Tella; Rodriguez.
Possible Line-Up

Burnley’s summer recruitment was very much based around getting intelligent and nimble footballers into the club with there now being a lot of very similar players available to Vincent Kompany. For example, in wide areas, Anass Zaroury, Darko Churlinov and Manuel Benson are all fleet-footed skilful wingers who can be interchanged seamlessly.

Key players for Burnley this season in adding that goal threat have been the trio of Josh Brownhill, Jay Rodriguez and Nathan Tella. Jay Rodriguez is a physical, hard-working and skilful centre-forward at Championship who both opens up space in attack for the smaller, technical players and is a focal point in the final third. Josh Brownhill, playing in the nominal number 10 role, has been revitalised after relegation from the Premier League, and has been able to make good runs beyond Rodriguez to get into goalscoring areas. Tella, on loan from Southampton, is a highly-skilful wide-forward who also has that nous to drive towards goal.

The midfield duo in front of the defence, Josh Cullen and Jack Cork, play an important role for Burnley in setting the tempo. Cullen, who was a key part of Vincent Kompany’s Anderlecht side, has really impressed with his ability to dictate games through his combination of highly-intelligent passing, positional play and ability to cover a lot of ground. Cork, meanwhile, is an experienced and physical anchor in the centre of the park.

Supporting Burnley’s attacking play are their two attack-minded full-backs, Connor Roberts and Ian Maatsen. Former Coventry City loanee, Maatsen, has really caught the eye this season with his enterprising runs that make him effectively another attacking player for much of the game, while Roberts is slightly more considered in his approach but is still a big threat with his energy and intelligence at this level of football.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

Burnley have averaged two-thirds of possession throughout the season, expect this to be a case of the away team dominating the ball and Coventry City trying to stay organised at the back before breaking quickly on the counter-attack. While the first goal in this game will inevitably have a big impact on proceedings, the Sky Blues should hope some hope that if they fall behind, Burnley’s habit of dropping leads may mean they mat not be able to completely take the game away from the home side.

Once again, Coventry City’s game-plan here will centre around getting Viktor Gyokeres running one against one versus the opposing defence. With Burnley’s full-backs pushing forward very aggressively in possession, Gyokeres’ space in this game is likely to be in wide areas, meaning that it will be important here that the other attacking players can get up to support the Swedish striker so that he isn’t left to beat two or three players before being able to get shots on goal.

Burnley will look to flood the middle of the pitch, which is a concern for Coventry City given how the midfield has been pulled apart and dragged around a little too easily in recent games. The aim for the Sky Blues will be to force Burnley into playing in front of their defence, which will require positional discipline both at the back and in midfield. While there is always a chance that Burnley will find joy with crosses into Jay Rodriguez, Mark Robins is likely to be content if that is the Clarets’ main source of danger in this game.

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