Burnley host Manchester City on Tuesday night as Sean Dyche’s side look to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace, which has left them 10th in the league. Goals from Wilfried Zaha and Jeffrey Schlupp gave Roy Hogdson’s side victory, in a game where Burnley were guilty of missing their fair share of chances, as the often much more clinical Clarets fell to defeat
Pep Guardiola’s side lost further ground to Liverpool in the title race over the weekend, and he will be keen to see his side reduce the eleven-point gap to their Merseyside rivals with three points from the trip to Turf Moor. City were equally as wasteful in front of goal against Newcastle in a 2-2 draw, relying upon a wonder-strike from Kevin De Bruyne to break the resolute Magpie’s defence late on, before Jonjo Shelvey equalised with a similarly brilliant strike.
Unbeaten against Burnley in their last eight meetings, Guardiola will be confident of victory once again, however their indifferent form and injury woes could make it a tougher ask than in recent years.
Burnley are expected to start in their traditional 4-4-2 shape, as Dyche will look to set up a sound defensive base to try and frustrate Manchester City for long periods. This shape, as often has this season, will see Burnley concede possession for long periods, and this is highlighted by their average possession of just 43%, a statistic which drops even further against the top opposition such as Chelsea (36%) and Liverpool (36%). The home game against Manchester City last season saw them muster just 30% possession and no shots on target in a 1-0 defeat, and with a similar approach expected on Tuesday night, with Dyche often looking to treat these encounters as damage limitation, it could be a long night without the ball for the Burnley side.
One area where Burnley will be confident of unsettling the City defence is through direct play up to Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, who will have aerial dominance over the City centre backs Fernandinho and John Stones, if opting for the same backline as against Newcastle. He could look to counter this by opting for Rodri at centre back for his extra aerial threat much, like at Crystal Palace, and with a lack of pace in the Burnley attack and extra possession expected for City, Guardiola could look to utilise his ball playing tendencies at the back. Unfortunately not priced at time of writing, the passing markets on Rodri will certainly be worth keeping a keen eye on prior to kick off.
The aerial threat does mean that Burnley could look to target Manchester City on the break through the hold up play of Wood and Barnes, and key to that being effective will be wingers Robbie Brady and Dwight McNeill, who will be able to expose the space vacated by the full backs of Manchester City, as well as the lack of tracking back from the wingers in front. This reared its head for City once again against Newcastle, as Allan-Saint Maximin and Miguel Almiron were able to drive the Magpies up the pitch in these spaces, particularly down the right flank, with a tactical tweak in possession seeing Kyle Walker shifted central to create an extra body in midfield, and thus vacating more space. How often they will get the opportunity to try make the most of this awaits to be seen, but it certainly offers an area where City have shown vulnerability this season, as Jetro Willems’ opener highlighted.
Burnley’s full backs will not be expected to press on as they did against Crystal Palace, and they do strike as an area where Manchester City can target on Tuesday. Phil Bardsley struggled up against the tricky Zaha, and will have be on the top form to deal with the threat of Raheem Sterling and the left back selected, who will look to overload the Scottish full back. Matthew Lowton could be preferred at right back as a more mobile option, however Charlie Taylor has been ruled out for Burnley, and should see Erik Pieters drop in at left back. The selection of the full backs, alongside James Tarkowski and Ben Mee at centre back, highlights the lack of pace available to Burnley’s backline, and will be looking to defend deep to guard against the tricky movement of the front three.
The deep defensive line will mean there will be a huge impetus on Kevin De Bruyne to create once again, and at times against Newcastle, the Manchester City attacks lacked tempo, and Guardiola will be keen to see his side play with more intensity on Tuesday night. Barnes and Wood will be expected to drop in and help press alongside Jack Cork and Jeff Hendrick, and as a result further reinforces that City will be expected to dominate large periods of the game with the ball. If Barnes and Wood struggle to drop in, City’s midfielders could overrun the Burnley midfield, and this would allow De Bruyne the space and time to work his magic, which has seen him contribute four goals, nine assists and four key passes per game this season. Overrunning the midfield will be key to City’s hopes, potentially increasing the chance of Rodri taking on the centre back role, and as a result it could see a lot of joy for the wingers drifting in off the flanks, particularly Sterling and Bernardo Silva, if selected.
This is a game that represents a must win encounter for Manchester City, and with domination of the game expected, it opens up an angle of interest.
With Sergio Aguero out injured, and Gabriel Jesus proving rusty in front of goal (currently underperforming his xG by 2.76), it could see an increased reliance on goals from elsewhere on the pitch. With Burnley sitting deep and City having to work the ball into the box to create opportunities, it could lead to a high volume of attempts from in and around the box, much like on Saturday, with Kevin De Bruyne racking up a total of six shots. The Belgian will be full of confidence, and given the wright on his shoulders to carry the team in Aguero’s absence, it would be no surprise to see De Bruyne chancing his arm once again, particularly if playing in a further advanced role once again. Available at 13/8 (SkyBet), De Bruyne to have 4+ shots stands out.
City’s domination throughout games this season has meant there is no surprise to see them topping the corner charts, with an average of 9.14 for a game. The overlapping nature of the full backs, particularly when Benjamin Mendy is selected, means that Guardiola’s side will often look to cross from the byline, thus increasing the chances of corners. Up against two full backs lacking pace, this will be an avenue explored once again. Factoring in a tendency to have a high volume of shots per game when trying to break teams down, currently at 21.2 shots per game, it further increases the chances of City creating in these avenues. As a result, O7.5 City corners at 9/10 (Bet365) is an appealing bet for this game.