Sean Dyche and Rafael Benitez have Burnley and Newcastle sitting in eighth and seventh respectively before any weekend matches are played. Each team, fans, and the managers would rapidly bite hands off if they were offered that in August. They would probably do exactly the same if they were offered to keep their positions until May, too.
Burnley threatened, albeit briefly, to cause an upset at Manchester City last weekend. The eventual 3-0 defeat is hardly humiliating given what City have done, and will do, to many teams this season. The Clarets will see this match as a chance to get back on course, especially having failed to beat West Ham the last time they played at Turf Moor.
Newcastle were so nearly frustrated into a bore draw by Crystal Palace. Their eventual goal was probably fair given the balance of the match, but the difficulty that Benitez’s side had in trying to break down an opponent was clear again. The same issue could well resurface at Burnley, with both teams comfortable out of possession and well organised at the back.
The hosts have fallen far short of their own lofty standards at home. Draws with Huddersfield and West Ham are joined by a defeat to West Brom. The Clarets were one of the toughest away fixtures last season, and will see their home credentials tested by a well-managed Magpie team.
Goals are a rare treat for the Turf Moor faithful. There have been under 2.5 in 10 of the last 12 at the historic Lancashire ground, and Newcastle have scored only three in their last four Premier League matches on the road, with two of those coming at St Mary’s. Benitez’s side are at 2/1 to fail to score.
Burnley have been fortunate to only concede nine this season. Goalkeeping heroics and some poor opponent finishing has saved them despite giving up over 13 expected goals. Dyche continues to make his team defy all odds, and sometimes, all logic. There is no reason to believe that will end this Monday, though.
Newcastle, perhaps fittingly, have been one of a host of Premier League teams struggling to finish chances. Joselu has been a good focal point for their attack, but the Magpies could be having an even stronger start to the season if they had been more clinical.
In true Burnley fashion, Dyche has seen his side only score eight in nine so far. The eight have almost all been scored in the right matches, at the right times. Burnley to score under 2.5 at 4/7 is a steal given their record. The loss of Andre Gray over the summer has not been as hurtful as many – including myself – thought it would be. Their attack is functional, but chances will be limited against this Newcastle defence.
Under two pragmatic, skilled managers, these two teams look safe already. They could be neck-and-neck in the Premier League midriff for the remainder of the Premier League campaign. Neither team will be thinking like that just yet, however. Each manager will stick to their trademark approaches for this one, meaning the match could revert to an attritional stalemate.
Tip: Burnley to win 1-0 at 13/2