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Watford-Burnley Preview

(Photo by Mick Walker - CameraSport via Getty Images)

The two surprise outfits of the Premier League this season collide at Turf Moor on Saturday when Burnley play host to Watford.

The Clarets (7-4-4) arguably could be higher than their current spot of seventh in the table - trailing Tottenham Hotspur on goal difference - had a penalty call not gone against them at Arsenal on Nov. 26. But they bounced back with a mid-week win over Bournemouth only to cede that ground from a 1-0 defeat at Leicester City last Saturday.

In the sixth minute, goalkeeper Nick Pope fumbled a cross by Riyad Mahrez, and Demarai Gray's opportunistic goal stood as the match-winner. But of bigger concern for Sean Dyche's team was losing influential midfielder Robbie Brady to a torn patellar tendon in his left knee after colliding with Leicester City's Harry Maguire.

"Robbie will have surgery to repair a patellar tendon tear and will be out for a substantial recovery period," Dyche said in a statement on the team's official website. "He will be given all the time and care he needs on his recovery and supported through from all of us at the Burnley Football Club."

The Ireland international, who is likely out for the season, had one goal and two assists but took a team-high 24 shots and was second with six of them on target. His absence in the midfield is massive since he played all but three minutes of Burnley's first 14 matches prior to the injury.

"It's a blow because Robbie has been excellent lately," Dyche said. "Some of his deliveries (Saturday) were excellent and he's settled into the team nicely … so it's a real knock for him and us."

Scott Arfield, who has a goal in eight matches this season, likely will get first crack at replacing Brady in the starting XI, though Dyche could go with two forwards up front with Steven Defour in an attacking role behind the pair.

Burnley were drawn away to Manchester City on Monday for a third-round FA Cup tie next month, while Watford will host Championship side Bristol City, who are currently third in that table.

Watford (6-4-5) lurk one spot behind Burnley, three points back, as Marco Silva's men continue to impress on Vicarage Road. The Hornets have taken seven points from their last four matches (2-1-1) after a 1-1 draw at home versus 10-man Tottenham.

Christian Kabasele's header off a Tom Cleverley corner gave Watford the lead before the quarter-hour mark, but Heung-Min Son equalised on 25 minutes. Despite playing a man up for almost the entire second half and playing positive football through the midfield, they could not find a go-ahead goal, coming closest when Abdoulaye Doucoure thumped the inside of the left post from 20 yards.

Watford, though, were understandably aggrieved that a late penalty for a handball was not called on Eric Dier after a cross by Richarlison. Still, it was a point against a top-six side, something that has been few and far between for Watford with just 18 in 34 such matches in the past two-plus seasons.

"I am happy because I saw our players did everything out on the pitch," Silva told the team's official website. "My players work every day since the first day. We give 100 percent every day. The supporters feel this and it is important."

The Hornets have been formidable on the road, taking 13 points from seven matches (4-1-2) and scoring at least two goals in every league game outside Vicarage Road. Richarlison and Doucoure have combined for seven of those 15 road goals, but Watford have had eight different players net at least one.

The home team won both matches last season, the first between the clubs in the top flight. Burnley ran out 2-0 winners in the corresponding fixture as Defour assisted on goals by Jeff Hendrick and Michael Keane on either side of halftime.

Watford are winless in their last nine trips to Turf Moor (0-4-5) since a 3-2 win in the First Division in 2004.

Updated December 7, 2017

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