Burnley boss Sean Dyche has emphasised that while Leeds may not be “purring” like last season they are “no mugs”.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side, who followed up promotion to the Premier League in 2020 with a ninth-placed finish last season, ended 2021 16th in the table.
They host 18th-placed Burnley on Sunday having lost each of their last three matches, conceding 14 goals across those games.
Dyche said: “They had such a flying season last season.
“I think their manager is very straight-minded, straight-talking and seems very knowledgeable. I would imagine he’d have been realistic and thought ‘can we build on it? Maybe. But is there a challenge going forwards that possibly will mean it’s going to be a tougher season?’ Yes, I imagine he’d be aware of that.
“It’s not easy season on season doing it in the Premier League to the levels they did last season. And then you add in the challenges like we’ve all had, injuries and the Covid situation, and ups and downs of players and form, and signing new players.
“Within all of that, performance-wise, they’re still in there. They’ve got more points than us currently, they’ve managed to get some wins. They’re still a decent outfit, but they’re maybe not purring as much as they were last season.
“Leeds are still in reasonable shape – people forget that. I just think they set the bar so high last season. They’re looking to achieve that again, and I think it was going to be a tough ask. But they’re no mugs.
“We know they’ve got players who can play, that they’ve spent a lot of money, that they have a manager who certainly has a clear view of what he wants from his team. So they are still a challenge, and every game is in the Premier League.”
Burnley, who lost 3-1 at Manchester United on Thursday, are five points worse off than Leeds with two games in hand over them.
Asked how important Sunday’s match will be, Dyche said: “They’re all important, make no mistake. The games around you are obviously considered more important, but the facts are the facts – you only get three points for a win, you don’t get extra points, so the idea is you need to win the games, you need to get points on the table.”
Dyche was also asked about the January transfer market, and said: “Whether I feel I need reinforcements or not, the market will dictate.
“Money available, players available, there’s a lot that needs to fall into place for deals to get done, particularly in January. We’ve always got our ear to the ground, our mind open, and our scouts looking at many positions.”
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