Sunday 26th December 2016 Kickoff: 1500hrs
Burnley v Middesbrough
Football – England – Premier League
Christmas is never an ideal time for Premier League footballers having to play on Boxing Day but three points would be the perfect present for either Sean Dyche or Aitor Karanka. Burnley and Middlesbrough were both promoted from the Championship last season and find themselves – as was to be expected – in the bottom half of the table looking over their shoulders. It’s Boro who are best placed of the two coming into this one with a slight one point advantage, but that could well change come full time on Sunday after they clash at Turf Moor.
Burnley were the best and most consistent side in last year’s Championship and made an immediate return to the top flight having suffered relegation in 2014/15. Being a well run club, the Clarets are never going to jeopardise their financial wellbeing by flinging millions at the playing squad but that makes it that bit more difficult for Dyche to find the talent required that would keep them in the division. That said, it has been a more than decent first half of the campaign as they sit in 16th with 17 points. All but one of those points have come at Turf Moor, though, and if that imbalance is going to continue then it places so much importance and pressure on the team continuing to regularly win at home. A defeat to Swansea on the opening day of the season is easily their most disappointing home result, with Manchester City and Arsenal surviving big scares to be the only other two teams to have taken three points home with them.
Middlesbrough recorded a much needed couple of wins in December and will be desperate to add to the victories gained over Hull and Swansea by beating yet another team who sit below them in the table. Winning games at home to the teams around you is crucial for any team wishing to survive in the Premier League and having only won two games before the win over Hull earlier this month, you would have feared for Karanka and his men having the talent to succeed. As it is now, they will be that bit more confident taking on a Burnley side who they finished directly below last season. ‘Boro’s only win on the road this season came at against the champions, believe it or not, although we know that Leicester are not the force they were last season. Nevertheless, that result proves they are capable but it’s anow about finding the consistency to go with it.
Burnley v Middlesbrough Betting Tips
It would be lazy and hyperbolic to call this game a relegation six pointer so early in the season, not least because neither of the two teams are actually in the relegation zone at the time of writing. However, the importance of taking three points at home for the hosts is rather obvious considering their terrible record on the road whilst ‘Boro will be looking to maintain the one point margin they have over their opponents at the very least, reducing the risk of being dragged further into trouble approaching the New Year.
I don’t think there will be much between these two teams throughout the season and would not put it past both Burnley and Middlesbrough staying up. In terms of who needs the win most on Sunday, I would edge towards the hosts as they are severely lacking on their travels so need to maximise the opportunities they have when playing in front of their own fans. Recent home wins over Bournemouth and Crystal Palace have been entertaining, both ending 3-2, but they also demonstrate the aggressive approach Burnley adopt at home. That type of performance will be required once again and I think it will be enough to see them over the line in this one.
Burnley 21/10 @ 888Sport