Ahead of Everton’s massive relegation six-pointer at Burnley tonight, under-pressure manager Frank Lampard sought to lessen the enormity of the occasion.
‘I don’t feel tense, I feel excited with the level of the game and the competitive nature of this game,’ said Lampard, assuredly.
Everton have lost every Premier League game on the road since his appointment in January. Another defeat this evening and Burnley will be a point behind with nine games left. Not tense? Think again, Frank.
Frank Lampard’s Everton take on Burnley this evening in a huge clash at the bottom of the table
The Toffees have not picked up a point on the road since Lampard’s appointment in January
The Clarets can move just a point behind Everton with a victory at Turf Moor on Wednesday
With seven of their subsequent nine games against top-half teams, including Liverpool and Chelsea, it’s close to a must-win for Everton.
Points and performances have been hard to come by for Lampard, who goes into tonight’s clash not only with a side with their confidence shot, but with injuries and suspensions to contend with too.
As for Burnley, the pressure doesn’t quite feel the same. They’ve been here before and, every time, Sean Dyche and his battle-hardened players have found a way out.
No goals in their last four games, though, tells the story rather simply. Dyche, too, was simplistic in his analysis ahead of tonight’s game.
Asked if he could demand any more from his forward players, Dyche said: ‘Yes – kick it in the net. It’s not rocket science.’
Ahead of a massive clash in the battle for survival, Sportsmail takes a look at all the key topics.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche’s instruction to his forward players was simple: ‘kick it in the net’
Either way you look, it’s nothing short of shocking for these two.
For Burnley, all four of those score-less games have resulted in defeats to Leicester, Chelsea, Brentford and Manchester City.
Previous to that, they seemed to pick up some form as they beat Brighton and Tottenham, and picked up a point at Selhurst Park.
For Everton, their demise in the last three months has seen Rafael Benitez’s sacking and Lampard’s appointment fail to turn the tide.
The Clarets are currently 19th having not picked up a point in their last four matches
In their last six Premier League games, they’ve managed just three points – and that came at the death against Newcastle just before the international break.
We shouldn’t forget, also, about a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Crystal Palace in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Sunday’s loss at West Ham saw another very real opportunity for points fall by the wayside. Lampard’s men can ill-afford a repeat tonight.
Lampard’s side are just outside the relegation zone in 17th place in the Premier League
Burnley have slightly fewer absentees than Everton, though both are without talismanic figures at the back.
Tonight’s hosts will be without captain Ben Mee for a fourth successive match due to a knee injury – and they will be praying he can make Sunday’s clash against Norwich.
Irish centre back Nathan Collins, however, is back from suspension after missing the City clash due to a late red card picked up against Brentford. A timely boost for the Burnley defence.
Burnley will be without captain Ben Mee for a fourth successive match due to a knee injury
Yet for Lampard, coming off the back of three days off and with a game against Manchester United to come on Saturday lunchtime, options at the back are few and far between.
Michael Keane’s clumsy two bookings on Sunday mean he’s out of tonight’s game due to a one-match ban, while defensive midfielder Allan is also suspended after the red card he received against Newcastle.
Donny van de Beek also picked up an injury in the warm-up on Sunday and is not fit. Yerry Mina is also still unavailable.
In more positive news, Seamus Coleman and Fabian Delph are back in contention for tonight and would add some much-needed steel and resilience under the lights in the North-West.
January signing Donny van de Beek will not be available for selection due to a knock
Michael Keane’s clumsy two bookings on Sunday means he’s out of tonight’s game too
A lack of confidence in attack is a key feature of both sides but particularly Burnley, who are struggling massively to fashion chances in attack.
A run of four goalless losses is telling, while their overall tally of three wins this season is the lowest of any Premier League team.
Wout Weghorst, bought in January to replace Chris Wood, has scored just once in his first 10 Premier League appearances, while club record signing Maxwel Cornet hasn’t scored since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations, a total of eight games.
The absence of Mee at the back has also had an adverse effect, though Nick Pope is still a reliable keeper to have behind the defence.
It’s been tough going for Wout Weghorst since his move – he has scored only once in 10 games
As for Everton, problems lie just about everywhere. Dominic Calvert-Lewin hasn’t scored a goal since August which, regardless of time out through injury, is a shocker.
The Toffees also haven’t scored in the first-half in 11 of their last 13 league games, and have secured fewer points away from home (six) than any other team in the Premier League and EFL, giving them the worst record of any of the 92 clubs.
Their discipline is letting them down as well. Three reds in three games is a first in the history of the club, and suspensions have hit them hard.
Yet it’s been even tougher going for Dominic Calvert-Lewin – shockingly goalless since August
WHAT’S TO COME…
This is a huge week for Burnley. After tonight’s game, they then travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich on Sunday, who are rooted to the bottom of the league.
Following that, a trip to West Ham is followed by two games at home to Southampton and Wolves, before another massive game at Watford to finish off the month.
Their last four games are against Aston Villa, Tottenham, Burnley and Newcastle. All the current top-three teams have come and gone.
Dyche’s side are currently four points adrift of safety with 10 Premier League games remaining
Yet for Everton, the reason tonight could have even bigger ramifications is their tricky run-in.
They host Manchester United on Saturday and Leicester 10 days later, before a Merseyside Derby at Anfield, a home game against Chelsea and another game against Leicester, this time at the King Power.
Then comes what will be a massive game at Watford on May 11, before they host Brentford and Palace and travel to Arsenal on the final day.
Lampard, who is unhappy with their schedule in the short-term, will be desperate for his side to be safe by that final game at the Emirates.
Squeaky-bum time. Crunch time. Call it what you want but while most eyes will be on the Champions League tonight, don’t forget about the significance of thishuge, midweek Premier League encounter.