Heaton puts Burnley exit on hold

Tom Heaton says he put plans to leave Burnley in January on hold after being recalled to the starting line-up last weekend.

The 32-year-old had been looking for a new home having been on the bench for the majority of this season and was understood to be attracting plenty of interest from teams in the Championship.

Heaton has found opportunities at Turf Moor limited since injuring his shoulder towards the start of the 2017/18 season, Nick Pope establishing himself as the No.1 in his absence.

When Pope went down with a shoulder injury, Burnley boss Sean Dyche decided to bring in Joe Hart but the ex-England international has struggled since his switch and was dropped for the 2-0 win over West Ham last weekend.

Having kept a clean sheet upon his return to the first-team, Heaton is expected to keep his place when the Clarets travel to Huddersfield for a vital battle at the bottom.

Basement side Huddersfield are 23/20 for the win, while the Clarets are 3/1 and the draw is 11/5.

Heaton hopes he can keep his place for the remainder of season and has now shelved plans to leave in the January transfer window.

"With January coming and me not playing, it was uncertain," said Heaton.

"Does that change now? I would imagine so. At 32 I don't really have too much time to waste.

"Not for one minute did I want to go anywhere but sometimes it has got to be looked at. That probably changes now.

"It's great to be back out there and I can't tell you how pleased I am to be back out on the pitch and pulling on that shirt again.

"I never wanted to leave the club, it's just the fact I wasn't playing that I would have had to. But after being back playing it's the last thing on my mind to be honest."

Burnley are 4/9 to be relegated this season but could climb out of the relegation zone with a win on Wednesday.

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Pellegrini: We lacked energy

Manuel Pellegrini blamed tiredness for his West Ham United side's poor performance in Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Burnley.

Goals from Chris Wood and Dwight McNeil secured victory for Sean Dyche's side who could easily have won the match by a much wider margin.

The Hammers had been in a run of good form and a victory at Turf Moor would have lifted them up to seventh in the table but they produced a lack-lustre display against the Clarets, 4/11 to be relegated this season.

West Ham had played on Thursday at Southampton, 24 hours after Burnley had been thrashed 5-1 at home by Everton.

Pellegrini thought that had been a factor in his side's limp display, with the Chilean saying: "It's frustrating because we wanted to win this game.

"It was a good opportunity to go to seventh position in the table but I think we lacked the energy to win it. We arrived back from Southampton at 2am on Friday, and then 48 hours later I am sure that affected the recovery because that's the only reason why we played the way we did.

"It wasn't only that we didn't create many chances, they also created a lot of chances. 2-0 was not the score that they deserved – they deserved at least a couple more."

West Ham are 19/20 to defeat Brighton on Wednesday and 7/1 to beat the Seagulls 1-0.

Dyche happy with changes

Sean Dyche credit the players that came into his team and those that dropped out after a 2-0 win over West Ham at Turf Moor.

Six defeats in their last seven games had left Dyche facing proper criticism, for the first time in his six-year tenure as Burnley boss.

The manager elected to make five changes to his starting team, with Joe Hart replaced in goal by Tom Heaton and 19-year-old Dwight McNeil also coming in for a start.

Chris Wood put Burnley in front with a right-footed finish from the left of the penalty area to conclude a sweeping move, with McNei involved, and the teenager doubled the lead before half-time.

West Ham were subdued throughout and Burnley could have increased their lead in the second half but Dyche was happy with the three points, and the reaction from his players on and off the field.

"Joe [Hart] has been magnificent for us and credit to him because he was the first to jump up at the end when Tom makes a big save," said Dyche.

"I decided the time was right for Dwight, who is a clever player who has some quality and ability. His family should take some pride in what he's doing. He'll get stronger and fitter and we hope he'll continue growing with the team."

Burnley begin 2019 with a trip to bottom-of-the-table Huddersfield on Wednesday, a game they are 14/5 to win. The home side are 11/10 with the draw 21/10.

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Crucial games ahead warns Dyche

Burnley manager Sean Dyche feels his side are entering a crucial phase of matches in which they have to do well if they are to turn their ailing season around.

The Clarets are currently inside the bottom three, having won only three of the 19 Premier League games they have played so far this season.

And Dyche believes that the next four games offer an opportunity to get back on track, with a Sunday visit from West Ham followed by meetings with Huddersfield Town, Fulham and Watford.

He told reporters: "All games are important, but it's fair to say that it's a different story against some clubs than it is to others.

"There are a group of teams we have to challenge ourselves against and we are playing some of them in the next four games."

Dyche also accepted that trying to repeat the success of last season was always going to be tough, while admitting that his side have not been strong enough in defence on a number of occasions.

He added: "We had a great season last season. It was improbable, not impossible but improbable, that it would be the same this season.

"It's been quite obvious that on the defensive side of the game there have been too many details lacking, too many soft goals, too many soft moments."

Burnley are currently priced at 1/3 to be relegated this season, while they are 12/5 to beat the drop.

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Dyche desperate for upturn

Sean Dyche has admitted that he has not got the balance right this season and he is to blame for Burnley's struggles.

The Clarets are in the bottom three after being thrashed 5-1 by Everton at Turf Moor on Boxing Day and they have already conceded more goals in the first half of this season (41) than in the whole of the 2017/18 campaign (39).

They had conceded just 15 goals at this stage last term and had 20 more points.

Burnley eventually finished seventh last season and were involved in the Europa League at the start of this term but they can be backed at 1/3 to be relegated and at 23/20 to lose to in-form West Ham United on Sunday.

"We know there's a lot of work to be done. We've never overthought it. We've got to shift the performance levels and we've got to stay strong to our beliefs," said Dyche.

"I'm not stupid, I know our stats. It's always a challenge season on season getting all the details right.

"The key moments at both ends of the pitch, you have to be deadly at one end and safe as houses at the other, and we haven't got that balance right. I know we have to get results and I take responsibility. It has to happen quickly."

Belgium midfielder Steven Defour and Republic of Ireland winger Robbie Brady remain doubts for Sunday's match.

Wagner seeks relaxed Terriers

Huddersfield boss David Wagner says he wants to see his team play with less anxiety and more freedom as they prepare for a demanding festive programme.

The Terriers are in deep relegation trouble, entering Christmas in 19th place in the table, four points adrift of safety.

They face a rejuvenated Manchester United on Boxing Day followed by matches against fellow strugglers, Fulham away on 29th December and then Burnley at home on 2nd January.

It is their home form which is most concerning fans, the team winning just once at the John Smith's Stadium all season, scoring just four goals in 10 games. They lost 3-1 to Southampton at the weekend.

Having lost their last five league games, Wagner is keen to avoid a sixth at Old Trafford on Boxing Day and says the team will only do so by ignoring the anxiety surrounding their league position.

He said: "We have to make ourselves independent from what is around us, from the table, results, whatever.

"We are exactly where everybody predicted us so this makes no sense to think about it and get affected by it.

"We are only able to collect points and to be competitive if we perform on our highest level. This is what we've done in recent weeks and this is what we've done in the second half (against Southampton), where we looked competitive."

Huddersfield are 14/1 to pick up three points on Boxing Day with Manchester United 1/4 and the draw 11/2.

The Terriers hope to have Jonathan Hogg back for the trip to Manchester United while Wagner will have to decide who plays upfront to try and resolve the problems in front of goal.

Steve Mounie was recalled for the Southampton game but, as with fellow striker Laurent Depoitre, he hasn't yet scored in a league game this season, all the goals so far coming from either defenders or midfielders.

The Terriers are 1/4 to be relegated at the end of the season while they are 3/1 to escape the drop.

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Emery expects physical challenge

Arsenal boss Unai Emery says that he is expecting a physical battle when the Gunners travel to face Brighton on Boxing Day.

They overcame a tough encounter with Burnley over the weekend, winning it 3-1 and Emery is expecting the Seagulls to take a similar approach.

He said ahead of Wednesday's game: "Brighton is the same, a very tough match physically, very organised and, like with Burnley, a very good coach who is working very well.

"It is a challenge and I respect those teams a lot because they also have good players. They decide to do a line-up with physical players with a lot of crosses for the strikers for heading in our box.

"We need to defend very far in our box to defend better against that."

Having suffered two defeats, at Southampton in the league and against Spurs in the EFL Cup, the Gunners got back to winning ways at the weekend, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring twice in a win which took Arsenal level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League table.

However, Emery's preparations for the match on Boxing Day have been hit by injuries in the squad. Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan is out for up to six weeks after the club confirmed he had a fractured metatarsal, suffered in the cup defeat to Tottenham.

The Arsenal boss also has problems in defence with Rob Holding, Konstantinos Mavropanos and Hector Bellerin all out and Nacho Monreal doubtful after limping off against Burnley.

The Gunners are 8/11 to win on Boxing Day with Brighton 9/2 and the draw 14/5.

Arsenal's festive run of games continues with a trip to face leaders Liverpool on 29th December followed by a match at home to struggling Fulham on New Year's Day.

Emery's side are 13/8 to finish in the top four while they are 1/2 to miss out on a Champions League place.

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Ozil has Gunners future

Arsenal "need" Mesut Ozil according to manager Unai Emery, who says the playmaker remains central to his plans.

Ozil will return to the Gunners squad for Saturday's home game against Burnley, having failed to make the bench for the midweek Carabao Cup loss against rivals Tottenham.

The 30-year-old former Real Madrid star has been linked with a move away after being left out for "tactical" reasons in recent weeks by the Arsenal boss.

Asked if he still had a future with the Gunners, Emery said: "yes, why not?"

"I want every player with a good mentality to help us and give us their characteristics and quality," Emery insisted. "We need Mesut Ozil.

"Every player wants to play and be okay to help the team when we need."

Arsenal are 2/9 to defeat the Clarets at the Emirates, with Sean Dyche's side 15/1 and the draw 23/4.

Emery confirmed the club's highest paid player would be in the squad to face 18th-placed Burnley, with Arsenal seeking to avoid their third loss in a week.

The Spaniard says all players are frustrated when they aren't playing, though he has no doubts that Ozil remains committed.

"The frustration is the same for everybody when they didn't play in a match," Emery added.

"But I spoke with him and with regularity in the season, telling him what we need from him and he has the commitment to help us and the quality and the characteristics to help us."

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Dyche plays down Lennon blow

Burnley boss Sean Dyche is unsure whether Aaron Lennon will need an operation on the knee injury he sustained in the weekend defeat to Tottenham.

The former Spurs and Everton winger will definitely miss Saturday's trip to Arsenal though because of the problem.

Dyche said: "Azza has had a knock on his knee, he'll be a doubt now. I'll find out more accurate information but he's got a chance of having an operation.

"He felt something in his knee at Spurs but finished the game. We had it checked out on Monday with the surgeon and a scan and stuff and it looks like there was something, so they'll deal with that accordingly. It's nothing major, more on the cartilage."

There is some good news for Dyche though as Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Steven Defour could both feature against the Gunners, while Stephen Ward has returned to training.

In addition Nick Pope played in an Under-23s game on Monday with the goalkeeper coming through the match unscathed.

Dyche added: "Johann has had a bit of treatment but only for a knock, so we're hopeful on that. Steven is still getting a few niggles, so we'll see how the week develops.

"Popey is still making good progress and Wardy is back in training for the first time."

Burnley, 4/9 to be relegated this season, are 10/1 to beat Arsenal on Saturday.

Eriksen pleased to make impact

Christian Eriksen said he was delighted to make an impact late on to keep Tottenham in the Premier League title race.

At home to Burnley at Wembley, the match looked to be ending in frustration for Spurs with the Clarets on course to earn a hard-earned point.

However, in stoppage time Eriksen, on as a substitute, scored the only goal of the game, Harry Kane passing for the Dane to strike past Joe Hart.

Earlier the Burnley keeper had been at his best to deny Erik Lamela but Spurs found chances at a premium, Sean Dyche's side retricting them to few clear-cut chances.

In the end though Burnley were left pointless and remain in a struggle at the foot of the table, two points above the bottom three.

Spurs meanwhile stay in the hunt for the title, the three points keeping them third in the table, five points behind leaders Manchester City.

Eriksen afterwards said he was delighted to have scored the decisive goal. He said: "Every time you come on you want to make an impact. To score in extra time was extra nice!

"Any goal if it is your first or number 20 is always very important and it is nice to score. The games are so close if you drop any points… getting in a flow like we are now feeds confidence.

"We try to win every game not just at Christmas! We are in a good situation and feel confident going into any game."

Other games on Saturday saw Crystal Palace pull clear of trouble with a victory at home to Leicester.

Huddersfield remain in the bottom three with a home defeat at the hands of Newcastle, while Cardiff lost away at Watford and Wolves beat Bournemouth 2-0.

Earlier in the day Manchester City went back to the top of the table after beating Everton 3-1.

Spurs are in action in midweek, making the short journey to Arsenal with the north London rivals playing in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup.

Spurs are 19/10 for the win with Arsenal 11/8.

Tottenham are 11/1 to win the game 1-0 while they are 6/1 to win the EFL Cup next year.

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