By Steven Downes
This weekend sees the two great roses of England come together to battle it out for three points. Red vs White, Burnley vs Huddersfield, Dyche vs Wagner.
What is seen as Huddersfield’s closest derby match this year has all the hallmarks of being a tactical chess match. The high pressing and full throttle Town against the hard to break down tactics of Burnley.
If you would have asked me four or five years ago whether Town vs Burnley would be a Premier League game, I would have replied not a chance.
However this is reality, not that the Premier League or Sky for that matter will be too pleased about it. Two working class Town’s in England’s top elite doesn’t scream viewers does it? This won’t matter one jot to me or the 3,000 other Town fans heading to Turf Moor on Saturday.
Before Town were promoted to the Premier League, we as fans always had the ambition and thought of ‘if Burnley can do it, then why can’t we?’. Both clubs are of similar size and it is only Burnley’s recent yo-yo relationship with the top division that has meant they have taken over Town in some areas in recent years.
However it is now a level playing field and both sides go into Saturday’s encounter full of confidence.
Burnley have started this season very well, much like Town, and both clubs needed a good start if they are to achieve their goal of surviving in the Premier League.
The first top flight game between the two clubs took place in 1920, at Leeds Road where Huddersfield won 1-0. They lost the reverse fixture at Burnley by the same score. The first time Town won a division one game at Turf Moor was 1923, where the Terriers won 2-0.
Fast forward nearly 100 years and we come to the 2001/02 season, where Town lost both games to Burnley in that season. That was the last the two clubs faced each other in a competitive game for over a decade.
Town next played Burnley in 2012/13, with the Terriers restored to the Championship, it was good to rekindle the fixture with our Lancashire rivals.
Town won both fixtures that season, however after that Turf Moor has become an unhappy hunting ground for Town. The Terriers lost both league games at Burnley in the 2013/14 and 2015/16 seasons.
Now though Town go to Burnley on the back of a positive draw with Leicester City, a game in which they could have easily won. Town have picked eight points up from their first five fixtures, a tremendous effort and not one that many Town fans would have expected.
Meanwhile Burnley themselves go into the game with some positive form. The season started with a 3-2 victory over nine man Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. A loss to West Brom followed, and then a draw with Tottenham at Wembley, with £15m new man Chris Wood scoring the equalising goal.
A win over struggling Crystal Palace, and then a draw with Liverpool at Anfield, has left the Lancashire club sitting seventh in the Premier League, one place below Town.
Neither team will be expecting to finish in their current positions, but their good starts to the season, means that early optimism can lead a long way into the dark months of winter when mid-season form could catch both sides up.
Nick Pope vs Laurent Depoitre
After Tom Heaton landed awkwardly during the clash against Crystal Palace, former Charlton stopper Nick Pope was called upon.
Nick Pope did well to hold onto a clean sheet against a spirited Crystal Palace side, however, he faced a real baptism of fire last Saturday afternoon as he was thrown into the deep end as Burnley went to Liverpool. Whilst some may have felt that Heaton’s absence would be costly, Pope produced a stand out performance.
This weekend he’ll be coming up against Belgium born striker Laurent Depoitre, the £3.5m striker joined Town from FC Porto in the summer and after impressing in the cup competitions, he was handed his Premier League debut against Leicester City.
In a very impressive performance, Depoitre got his just reward as he scored his first goal for the men in blue and white stripes last Saturday to secure a well-earned point against Leicester City.
After producing a good display last time out, Laurent Depoitre will be full of confidence and be looking to cement his place in Town’s starting line-up with another good performance.
Jack Cork vs Aaron Mooy
Jack Cork returned to Turf Moor in 2017, leaving Swansea City in a deal worth a reputed £8m. Providing midfield stability and a bit of attacking flair, Cork is just the sort of player Burnley needed.
The 28-year-old midfielder’s passing ability and his awareness make him a dangerous opponent on the field and not one that Town should let go wandering about with ease. The man tasked with keeping an eye on Cork is Town midfielder and now voted Australian footballer of the year Aaron Mooy.
As one of Town’s standout performers in recent weeks, Mooy has played an instrumental role in helping Town have the good early season form they have had.
It is Mooy’s calm persona in midfield and ability to pick the right pass at the right time which is the key to making Town tick. As well as his excellent mannerism on the ball, Mooy is not afraid to make a challenge either, and the Australian international’s £8m summer transfer fee is already starting to look like a real steal.
Scott Arfield vs Christopher Schindler
Former Town player Scott Arfield is remembered on the whole fondly by Town fans, a part of the 2012 promotion team, he’s a player that is always a discussion point for Town fans.
However since moving to Burnley he has become a fan favourite. Part of their promotion campaigns, he has forced himself into a regular starting spot.
A dangerous player who can produce anything at any point, works hard to create chances for others and chips in with the odd wonder strike. Town’s defence must be aware of the threat’s the former Terrier can have.
Christopher Schindler will likely be the man to come up against Arfield, the German so far this season has not put a foot wrong.
An ever present in the Town defence, he has timed his tackles to perfection, while his reading of the game is just outstanding. If he can keep Arfield quiet on Saturday, it will give Town a big chance of winning the game.
Chris Wood v Zanka
One player who could come back to haunt Huddersfield on Saturday is Chris Wood. The 25-year-old striker made the big money switch from Leeds United to Burnley in the summer.
Already Chris Wood has made his mark with goals against Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace, both of which earned Burnley points.
In previous seasons, Chris Wood has had plenty of joy against Huddersfield including hat-tricks for both Millwall and Leicester City against Town and last season, he scored in Town’s 2-1 victory over Leeds United.
The Kiwi will pose a big challenge on Saturday and it is likely that the Danish international Zanka will have the difficult task of dealing with him.
If Zanka can win this individual battle with Chris Wood, it could be crucial if Town are to take a result away from Turf Moor.
Here is our predicted line-up for Town’s clash tomorrow at Turf Moor.
Stats to look out for
- Huddersfield’s only league win in nine attempts at Turf Moor since the clubs last met in the top flight came in the Championship in February 2013, when James Vaughan scored the only goal.
- Burnley have won their last three encounters against Huddersfield.
- Burnley have made their best start to a Premier League season with eight points after five matches.
- They faced a total of 86 shots in their last three league matches – 28 more than any side – but conceded just twice.
- Three quarters of Burnley’s Premier League points since the beginning of last season have come at Turf Moor – 36 of 48.
- Four of Huddersfield’s five Premier League games this season have been goalless at half-time, more than any other side.
- Only the two Manchester clubs have conceded fewer goals than Huddersfield’s tally of three.
- Tom Ince has had a league-high 17 shots in the Premier League this season without scoring.