Can Burnley beats the odds and survive relegation?
As Burnley revel in their shock 1-0 victory over reigning Premier League holders Manchester City, there is real belief that The Clarets can defy all and stave off relegation back down to the Championship.
Sean Dyche's men were written off early in the season for the simple fact they were conceding goals and weren't scoring enough. Indeed, it took until 11 games this term for the Tykes to record their first win of the season, at home to Hull. They then went on the win two of the next five games and began to get some form and consistency together. However the form of the early stages of the campaign came back to dog Burnley.
Earlier this season, three days after Christmas, Dyche's men travelled to the Etihad and to a game that few expected Burnley to take away anything else than a footballing lesson. What followed were the seeds of hope being planted, that the club could indeed begin an unlikely rear-guard action at the foot of the table.
After David Silva and Fernandinho had given Manchester City a 2-0 lead at the interval, The Citizens were seemingly heading to a easy win versus their basement-dwelling opponents. What Manuel Pellegrini's men had not banked on was Burnley's fight and character that they were about to show. Goals from Ashley Barnes and George Boyd had gained The Tykes a hugely unlikely point. Indeed the vistors had chances to take away all three points.
Burnley were on to something. In their next three outings they scored at least twice, including three at St. James' Park in a six-goal thriller with Newcastle United. Burnley were not keeping clean sheets and were losing games, but what gave them a foot-up over their opponents at the wrong end of the table, was they were scoring goals.
Sean Dyche has installed a belief in his players that despite their shoestring budget, they can compete and in the second half of this season thus far, they have showed just that. The form of Danny Ings and his emergence as one of the English top flight's most intelligent and canny forwards, has given Burnley hope. The sheer tenacity of Ashley Barnes also aids Ings and his controversial tackle of Nemanja Matic - which led to the latter's dismissal - only serves to underline that.
Which leads us nicely on the champions-elect. Burnley have scored versus Chelsea in both league outings and took away a hugely creditable point from Stamford Bridge versus Jose Mourinho's men. That was eclipsed - and how - by Saturday's toppling of Manchester City. Remarkably, the wins means The Tykes have taken four points from City this season and are unbeaten.
George Boyd's only goal of the game at Turf Moor, was his fifth of a sparsely amassed total, but has given his side much needed impetus going forward. Burnley's central players in both defence and the middle of the park are far from illustrious names, but are nevertheless tireless in the workrate.
Kieran Trippier's delivery from full back is one the best in the league and despite both of his centre-back teammates being household names in Lancashire only, Burnley have began to treat every game like a cup tie. Which in goes a large way in balancing the mental odds.
Jason Shackell and Ben Mee have formed an unlikely hard-to-beat alliance in the heart of the Burnley defence, with the latter adding two goals to the Burnley pot. As documented, Burnley have the tenacious Barnes and that hunger really ebbed through the home side's performance versus City, which at times resembled a Barcelona who, in conceded possession were snapping at the heals of the likes of Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas, and Fernadinho.
Each time Burnley had three or four men around the ball and denied their opponents the space, on an already compact playing surface. To a man, Sean Dyche and his team were outstanding.
Burnley now sit in 18th spot, just a single point behind a beleaguered Sunderland, but three ahead of QPR and a further three ahead of Leicester City. The remaining fixture list makes for interest reading. Burnley travel to St Marys this weekend but then face both North London sides at home in six days. The two standout fixtures from them include two potentially seismic six-pointers versus relegation rivals Leicester and Hull, with the Foxes travelling to Turf Moor.
Many may think Steve Bruce's men are now safe, after emerging from a huge dip in form, but with games versus five of the top six to come, their status remains in huge doubt. With Aston Villa perhaps now able to pull clear with their attacking flair now returning, realistically it is now three teams from five to go down; Leicester, QPR, Burnley, Sunderland and Hull.
In the post-Christmas period Sean Dyche has shown that his side will not go down without a fight and the victory versus Manchester City shows that The Tykes are up for a battle and can come out on top. So can Burnley - after having been written off - now achieve a remarkable feat and gain a sophomore season in this era of the English Premier League? One thing is for sure, Burnley Football Club will go down swinging.