Crystal Palace will be aiming to extend their six-game unbeaten run when they take on Burnley in the Premier League over the weekend.
The enticing encounter at Turf Moor is set to pit two teams with contrasting styles against each other following the arrival of Patrick Vieira in south London, with the 45-year-old preferring a possession-orientated approach.
As per FBref.com, the Eagles have averaged 51.2% of the ball in their opening 11 top-flight fixtures of the season, compared to Burnley’s 38.7% – the second-lowest total in the division.
Vieira’s charges have also attempted the sixth-highest number of short passes (2020) in the Premier League and the 12th-highest number of long balls (999), clearly illustrating how the Frenchman wants his side to play.
The Clarets, on the other hand, have tried to pull off the fourth-lowest number of short passes (1416) and the third-highest total of long balls (1168).
Therefore, it would perhaps be wise if Vieira didn’t attempt to play Sean Dyche’s men at their own game, instead focussing on the slick interplay that helped them carve open Manchester City and Wolves in recent weeks.
As a result, in-form striker Christian Benteke – who Alan Shearer said was “scared to miss” last season – must be axed from the starting lineup after featuring from the off last time out, changing the game in Palace’s favour.
No side in the top-flight has won a higher percentage of their aerial duels than Burnley (55.2%) this season, and floating crosses into the opposition box for the big Belgian will suit Ben Mee and James Tarkowski down to the ground.
The centre-back pairing have won an average of 3.8 and four aerial duels per league game respectively in 2021/22, as per WhoScored, and although Benteke has bettered those tally’s (4.5), he’s unlikely to receive much support from his teammates.
While the £120k-per-week bully has been dominating defenders with his head, his colleagues haven’t enjoyed anywhere near as much success, with the second-best headers, Marc Guehi and Cheikhou Kouyate, winning just 1.7 duels.
Consequently, Palace’s best opportunity to claim the three points on Saturday would be to avoid pitting Benteke up against the Burnley battering rams and instead opting for the more mobile, elusive and intelligent options at their disposal.
The likes of Odsonne Edouard and Michael Olise have already shown themselves to be genuine threats at this level following their summer arrivals, and attacking prowess could prove pivotal as Vieira aims to secure a third consecutive victory for the first time during his Palace tenure.