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Premier League 2017-18 preview – Burnley

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Burnley manager Sean Dyche achieved a feat that hadn’t been accomplished at the club in the Premier League era: Survival.

The club managed to stay up, surviving relegation by six points with a 40 point total in 2017, giving Dyche and Burnley a second-consecutive season in the Premier League. The last two times the club had been in the Premier League, in 2009-2010 and 2014-2015, it had gone straight down.

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The goal again this season will be survival, and considering the signings made, Dyche is more worried about his defense than signing a striker who can create a moment of magic that could excite fans and lift the team on the field.

After selling top centerback Michael Keane to Everton in a big-money move, it will be difficult to see Burnley remain in the Premier League, but Dyche is an expert motivator and tactician, and it’s expected that Burnley will be fighting for a top-17 place in the table until the last day of the season.

[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub

Best, worst case scenario: Burnley will finish 15th after improving its defensive form and finding a new scoring outlet other than Sam Vokes, or seeing Vokes have a breakout year with 15 or more goals. More likely, Burnley will sit in the relegation zone for most of the season, and it will be a mental grind to see if they have what it takes to pick up important points.

Best possible XI is…


—– Heaton —–

— Bardsley — Long — Tarkowski — Mee — 

—- Gudmundsson —- Cork —- Defour —- Brady —-

—– Vokes —– Gray —–


Transfers In: Jonathan Walters ($4 million, Stoke City), Jack Cork ($13.2 million, Swansea City), Phil Bardsley ($993,000, Stoke City), Charlie Taylor ($4 million, Leeds).

Transfers Out: Michael Keane ($33.1 million, Everton), George Boyd (Free), Joey Barton (Free).

Last season
– 16th place in Premier League
– Second round of EFL Cup
– Fifth round of 2016-17 FA Cup

Burnley’s Tom Heaton during the pre-season match at The City Ground, Nottingham. (Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images)

Star player: Tom Heaton – The 31-year-old goalkeeper was once again Burnley’s savior, producing many fine saves and keeping the club in a position to stay up. Heaton, who’s form has lifted him into the England National Team squad, earned 10 clean sheets and 11 wins last season along with 141 saves including one on a penalty kick. With such an inexperienced and light defense, Heaton will be as important as ever this season if Burnley wants to stay in the Premier League.

Coaches’ Corner: One of the few English managers in the Premier League, Burnley’s management has shown tremendous faith in the former centerback, sticking with him when the team was relegated from the Premier League in 2015 all the way through now. Dyche has a knack for organizing his team tactically to make them tough to break down, but at times last year when they were broken, the floodgates were open. Dyche will have another rough challenge on his hands this season, and he’ll need to guide his team mentally through the grind of the Premier League.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche during the pre-season friendly match at Turf Moor, Burnley. (Photo by Getty Images)

PST predicts: Burnley will have a tough time dealing with the loss of Michael Keane from the backline, as well as facing the other sides, many of which have improved more this offseason. The club will likely be in the relegation dog fight all season long, but if the team can improve its road form, they can have a path to survival, provided the club’s home form remains the same.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham