Burnley’s survival prospects come down to the final day as they welcome Newcastle United to Turf Moor in a must-win encounter on Sunday afternoon.

The curtains fall on the 2021/22 Premier League campaign on Sunday afternoon, with plenty at stake at the top and bottom of the table as the title, survival and European qualification will all be on the line. Following the mid-week results, relegation-threatened Burnley could be the one significantly affected by the events on what is expected to be a dramatic final day of the season.

Everton picked up a heroic comeback victory at Goodison Park to clinch safety on Thursday night, while Burnley only managed a point in a 1-1 draw at Villa Park to climb out of the bottom three, with January signing Wout Weghorst the culprit for missing a late opportunity to score the winner and quite possibly grabbing the golden ticket to survival.

The Clarets are currently safe at 17th despite being equal on points with 18th-placed Leeds United, thanks to their superior goal difference of +20. So, Burnley’s destiny is still very much in their own hands and the brief is simple for Mike Jackson’s troops: they will either have to match or better Leeds United’s result against Brentford to extend their top-flight stay for another season.

Newcastle’s fortunes have changed dramatically since Eddie Howe took charge at St James’ Park in November. Prior to the arrival of the former Bournemouth manager, they were languishing in 19th place in the league standings and had not won a single game, with this season-ending game against Burnley circled as a potential relegation decider.

However, the form tables have flipped around spectacularly, with 11 victories from 18 matches since the turn of the year putting them in 12th spot, with a realistic possibility of finishing in the top half provided final day results elsewhere go their way.

Newcastle head into this game on a roll, having won five of their past seven games. They did lose the other two, but they were against title contenders Liverpool and Manchester City, and they bounced back in some fashion with a 2-0 win over Arsenal, a game in which the scoreline flattered the Gunners.

Both sides were in the drop zone when the reverse fixture was played back in December, with Newcastle just about edging a tightly-contested encounter 1-0 to claim their first win of the season. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides at Turf Moor, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Burnley

In a big boost for the Clarets boss Mike Jackson, star defender James Tarkowski made his comeback from injury in Burnley’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Thursday. Dale Stephens was also back on the bench and could feature here, but Jay Rodriguez remains a doubt to recover in time and faces a late fitness test.

They will be without the services of Matt Lowton due to suspension owing to his controversial straight red card in midweek, while Johann Berg Gudmundsson (leg injury), Ashley Westwood (dislocated ankle), Ben Mee (lower leg injury) and Erik Pieters (knee) have also been ruled out for the final game of the season due to respective long-term injury issues.

Jackson is unlikely to tinker with the defensive-minded 5-3-2 formation that he has utilized in recent games. With safety ever so close, the Clarets have tended to sit back and soak up pressure recently, a strategy that can backfire against them here.

Nick Pope has been a commanding presence at the back for the Clarets all season and will continue in goal at the weekend. The England shot-stopper is likely to be protected by a three-man central defensive unit led by Tarkowski, with Kevin Long and Nathan Collins the other two defenders, flanked by marauding wing-backs in Connor Roberts and Charlie Taylor.

The duo of Jack Cork and Josh Brownhill will slot in the engine room, while Dwight McNeil will almost operate as the third midfielder in a bid to progress the ball from deep and stitch up attacks. Wout Weghorst squandered a fantastic chance to win the game for Burnley last time out, so the duo of Ashley Barnes and Maxwel Cornet may continue to get the nod to start upfront.

Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Pope; Roberts, Collins, Tarkowski, Long, Taylor; McNeil, Brownhill, Cork; Cornet, Barnes

Newcastle United

The midfield duo of Jonjo Shelvey (calf problem) and Joe Willock (tendon) will remain sidelined until the 2022/23 pre-season. Otherwise, Eddie Howe has no fresh injury concerns and an almost clean bill of health, though the Toon boss has a couple of late selection calls to make on Chris Wood (minor Achilles injury) and Fabian Schar, with the latter being forced off against Arsenal due to concussion protocols.

Howe will opt for his preferred 4-3-3 formation with a slight rotation expected. Martin Dubravka is a certain starter in between the sticks for the Magpies, fresh from preserving a clean sheet against the Gunners. The manager could opt to go with the proven pairing of Schar and Dan Burn at the heart of the defence as they look to contain the physical threat posed by Burnley’s forwards.

Kieran Trippier was an unused substitute in Monday’s victory over Arsenal but should be fit enough to start here at right-back and get some minutes under his belt, whereas Aston Villa loanee Matt Targett has made himself an indispensable option on the other flank.

Bruno Guimaraes has only been on Tyneside for three months or so, but he is already a cult hero. His surprisingly good goal-scoring instincts are a part of the reason for that. His midfield compatriot Joelinton is arguably the most improved player in the Premier League this season, while Sean Longstaff is another one of a long list of players to have improved drastically under Howe’s coaching.

Callum Wilson dealt a blow to his front tooth in the 2-0 victory at St James Park on Monday but will be fine to spearhead the Newcastle attack again here. Ryan Fraser was introduced off the bench against Arsenal and could well feature from the start this weekend, while wing king Allan Saint-Maximin will look to make good use of his lethal afterburners and maverick skills from the left.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Dubravka; Trippier, Schar, Burn, Targett; Longstaff, Guimaraes, Joelinton; Fraser, Wilson, Saint-Maximin

Key Stats

  • Newcastle have won each of their last three Premier League meetings with Burnley, having lost only twice in their last nine games against the Clarets in all competitions (W5 D2).
  • The Clarets have lost their final league game of the season in each of their five top-flight campaigns since their return to the division in 2016.
  • Burnley have rekindled their form at home of late, winning three of their last four league games, the same number of wins as they had in their previous 26 at Turf Moor (D11 L12). They did, however, lose their most recent home game, 3-1 against Aston Villa.
  • Mike Jackson’s side have scored at least one goal in each of their last four home games, but they have kept only three clean sheets in their last ten at Turf Moor.
  • Newcastle may have turned St James’ Park into a fortress, but their away form has not been great, with four defeats from their last five away league games (W1).

Player to Watch

Nick Pope

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Rarely does a goalkeeper get picked in our Player to Watch section, but if Burnley beat relegation this season, Nick Pope should be handed the keys to the city, such has been the 30-year-old’s importance to the Clarets’ late-season recovery. The England international has had a thankless task in Burnley’s goal this season, but his brave goalkeeping performances and incredible reflexes in recent weeks have earned the Clarets some crucial points.

He has led them from the front at times and has single-handedly kept Burnley in games when the team is under intense pressure. He will once again be vying to deny Newcastle attackers from finding the back of the net and help his side to earn a favourable result this weekend.

Prediction

Burnley 1-1 Newcastle United

While there is no denying that some Premier League mid-table sides are well and truly on the beach at this stage of the season, Newcastle showed they mean business by smashing Arsenal’s top-four hopes last weekend. Not to mention, some Toon players will be playing their final game in black-and-white shirts, while others are playing for their futures at the re-born club with massive ambitions.

So, it will be a nervy affair for even the survival specialists Burnley and they will have to work hard to get a result. That said, given the visitors’ dismal away form recently, The Hard Tackle predicts the Clarets to nick a point in front of raucous home support at Turf Moor, which should be enough to clinch their survival if the outcome of the Leeds game at Brentford Community Stadium works in their favour.

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