Burnley are facing an uphill battle in their pursuit of Premier League survival, with victory over Southampton on Thursday appearing almost a must.
Original article published 29 August 2022
It has been a season of struggle for the Clarets and, as we enter the final weeks of the campaign, they surely must start registering victories if they are to avoid dropping into the Championship for the first time since 2016.
The odds appear to be against Burnley, who are priced at 2/5 to go down, but a clash with mid-table Southampton at Turf Moor could prove the ideal catalyst for a late push towards survival.
The footballing world was left shocked when Burnley opted to part ways with long-serving manager Sean Dyche last week after he spent nearly a decade in the role.
Perhaps what is more surprising is the perceived lack of planning behind that dismissal, as the Clarets are still yet to appoint Dyche's successor, with interim boss Mike Jackson set to remain in charge for the second successive match.
Jackson, who was appointed Burnley's under-23 coach last summer, does have previous managerial experience at senior level, although he did not pull up any trees during spells in charge of Shrewsbury and Tranmere.
The 48-year-old did lead the Clarets to a credible 1-1 draw against West Ham during his first match in temporary charge on Sunday, and he was only a Maxwel Cornet missed penalty away from winning that contest at the London Stadium.
If Jackson were to lead Burnley to just their fifth league win of the season on Thursday, then perhaps he will have done enough to keep hold of the job until at least the end of the campaign.
A victory over Southampton would certainly boost Burnley's 9/5 survival hopes, especially as four of their final six games are against sides in the bottom half of the standings.
Sam Allardyce, Chris Wilder and Wayne Rooney are among the names that have been linked with succeeding Dyche on a permanent basis, but perhaps it is Jackson that can spearhead Burnley's survival charge.
Only Norwich and Watford have collected fewer home points than Burnley in the Premier League this season, with the Clarets having won just three of their 15 top-flight matches at Turf Moor to date.
However, there are reasons for supporters to be optimistic, as two of those three victories have come across Burnley's last five home fixtures, including this month's 3-2 success over fellow strugglers Everton.
The Lancashire outfit also boast an impressive recent record in home meetings with Southampton, as they have lost just one of the eight clashes between the two sides at Turf Moor, albeit that sole defeat was by virtue of a Danny Ings goal last season.
A Burnley win on Thursday can be backed at 7/4, while a Southampton victory is available at 13/8 and the draw 9/4.
Southampton are part of a clutch of teams in the middle of the standings that are in no danger of going down, but are also not in contention for European qualification.
That might explain why Saints supporters have seen their side's form dip over recent weeks, as they had taken just one point from their previous five games prior to Saturday's 1-0 victory over Arsenal.
It can be argued that the win over the Gunners could kickstart a return to form for Ralph Hasenhuttl's side, although it may also push them even closer to the beach.
This is not a Saints side that relishes playing away from home at the best of times, as they have lost 12 and won only three of their last 20 top-flight fixtures on their travels, a run that stretches back over a year.
While a first top-half finish in five years remains a possibility at odds of 10/3, Southampton's need for the points is certainly less than Burnley's, which could ultimately prove the difference at Turf Moor on Thursday evening.