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Burnley FC [Image from flickr by Adam Haworth]
Burnley have punched well above their weight in this Premier League campaign. In their last two spells in the top tier of English football they managed a surprise win over Manchester United in 2009, and have now held both sides to draws this season. By Christmas, many expected the side to be bottom and beyond redemption, a replica of Paul Jewell's Derby side which was well off the pace in the Premier League. At the halfway mark they lie 19th and have won over a number of fans and credit must go not just to Sean Dyche but to a unified squad, the board for sticking by the manager and their passionate fans.

Fellow promoted sides Leicester City began the big time on a roll and were impressive before a sharp decline that is facade by the win over struggling Hull. They lay bottom and look like the favorites to finish at the base of the table. Burnley are joint on 16 points with Crystal Palace who recently sacked Nigel Warnock and Queens Park Rangers who have a woeful away record but impressive at home. It will be tough to survive and despite being among the three favorites to get the drop the draw against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium having been two goals down displayed their character and never say die attitude. Chelsea would be the first to be grateful for this result which keeps their three point buffer at the top. The gaffer was ecstatic with the result and lauded the side's spirit. Spearheaded by Danny Ings, Jason Shackell, Ashley Barnes and George Boyd the side could conjure up a miracle. What we know is the fight will go down to the wire. Burnley are brave, are the hardest working side on the pitch with an average distance of 115.1 km. They look the fittest side in the league and have outrun 16 opponents. They lie sixth on the number of clean sheets (5) which is impressive. Burnley will need to amass more points than they achieved in the first half. Can they do it? Consistency and sharpened finishing will take them to another season in the Premier League.

Poor finishing, horrendous defending on set pieces and their inability to keep possession has been their Achilles heel. With the turn in fortune of Danny Ings, Sam Vokes' return and the turn for the better of Ashley Barnes bodes well for the side. Soon to be capped by Austria Barnes has risen to the challenge banging in three goals in four including that thunderous strike against Manchester City. With the transfer window on the horizon Sean Dyche will do well to add a few players hopefully a Center Forward and a midfielder. Burnley have turned a corner lately with three wins in their last and nine games. 12 points haul from a possible 27, as they will look to continue their surge up the table on New Year’s Day at Newcastle's St James' Park. A return that has surpassed fellow strugglers QPR, West Brom, Leicester City, Hull and Crystal Palace. The fight goes on…

Article contributed by: Benedict Chanakira

Twitter: @bchanakira2

Manchester United continued their pursuit of their first official win under Louis van Gaal against newly promoted side Burnley, who were also looking for their first win of the new campaign, at Turf Moor.




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Angel di Maria was unable to inspire his side to a much needed victory.

Club and British record signing Angel di Maria started in the centre alongside club vice-captain Darren Fletcher for the Reds, but unfortunately they were still unable to break the deadlock and failed to score in the match, ending this encounter in a draw.

Here are 5 talking points from this match:

1. Where has all the creativity gone?

Having players like Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Robin van Persie and Angel di Maria in the same team would instantly make us think of creativity, flair and attacking prowess. However, this formidable foursome was unable to break open Burnley defense, a team against whom Chelsea managed to score 3 inside 20 minutes.

2. Why is Darren Fletcher still playing?

Darren Fletcher will always be regarded as a club legend for his unequaled desire to play for the shirt, however after having watched him start each of the 3 matches in the Premier League so far, I am always left wondering when we will stop playing him. He looks tired, bleak, ragged and always loses the ball. For these reasons alone, I was over the moon upon hearing that we've signed Ajax's defensive midfielder Daley Blind. Having either one of Blind or Carrick in midfield in place of Fletcher should regain the balance in our midfield.

3. We need our wing-backs back

Having watched Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia on the wings for the most part of this season, I can easily say that we are one of the most uncreative and predictable sides from the wings. While other big teams like Chelsea can show off their flamboyant wingers (like Eden Hazard), our best one was playing in centre-mid today. With the lack of creativity in the team, it wouldn't hurt if our wingers/wing-backs helped out in creating scarce chances for our strikers. That is why we need  Rafael and Luke Shaw back, because Young and Valencia are one of the worst crossers and probably even dribblers in the league.

4. It's not all doom-and-gloom at the back

One of the main reasons we have been losing these opening games has been our leaky defense. Today, the defense started just as badly as the other games, conceding pointless free-kicks in dangerous positions and making defensive errors, both nearly leading to goals. After the jagged start, though, we finally got to see some composure from our back line. In my opinion, Phil Jones has been our best player in these 3 matches, and the rest of the centre-backs and wing-backs haven't done his performances justice with their lacklustre defending. Although we desperately need a leader at the back, I certainly hope that we will continue to keep things tight at the back, like today, despite that shaky start.

5. Will the 3-5-2 prevail?

Since the World Cup and pre-season, we have all been excited by van Gaal's unusual formation consisting of wing-backs. At first everyone thought that this new formation would be an instant hit at Old Trafford, but now everyone seems skeptical. The thing is, despite us naming most of our best attacking players, we are failing to create chances. Many people will blame the formation, but in fact it is the players who are to blame. The 3-5-2 system is really meant to be a counter-attacking formation, and we have already witnessed how well it works against the bigger opposition, where United can sit back and counter attack without being scrutinised. The players will, however, struggle against the lower sides minaly because United will need to take the game to them, and the formation is not really meant for the full out attacking style of play. In this formation, the defenders also have to be the ones to see most of the ball, and United's centre-backs are still getting used to not hoofing the ball across the field whenever they come under pressure. All in all, the players are still getting used to this formation, and like van Gaal has said, we can only judge after everyone has settled in to the new 'philosophy' that he has instilled at Old Trafford. Van Gaal says that it will probably take 3 months for the players to settle in. Yes, we are all getting impatient with these negative results, but I think that a man who has won so many trophies across Europe definitely has a better idea of what he's doing compared to those who are calling for his head 3 games into the season.

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The favorites of the Premier League title are set to get their campaign underway against the newboys; Burnley who last graced the Premier League in 2009. The hosts under then manager Owen Coyle grabbed two notable scalps; those of Manchester United. In this campaign I expect a few decent results but they will go down. Their inability to considerably strengthen leaves them in trying to hussle for 40 points.

Burnley v Chelsea. Photo Credit: Premier League
Sean Dyche has to debut against the Special One. No better test of your ability. Burnley have a proven goal scorer in Ings but will they break Jose's defense? Usually organized and efficient. This will be an exciting game.

Chelsea line up (predicted) : Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Luis, Fabregas,  Matic, Ramires, Willian, Hazard,  Costa

Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Arfield, Marney, Taylor, Jones,  Kightly, Ings

Chelsea had a productive pre season with a worrying result against Werder Bremen. Not much of a reflection of Chelsea's preparations. Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa really impressed. However pre season form counts for nothing in the crunch time.
Burnley's biggest worry will be goals. They struggled for those against a Blackpool side full of trialists! How will Ings fare with this load?
Burnley 0 Chelsea 2
*Costa
*Cahill

Article contributed by: Benedict Chanakira

Twitter: @bchanakira2

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