Advertisement

Fighting for Premier League survival, Burnley and Sheffield United meet in pivotal match

BURNLEY, England (AP) — Vincent Kompany does not look like a man who is feeling the pressure.

His Burnley team is last in the Premier League standings and faces Sheffield United on Saturday in a game that could be crucial in the battle to avoid relegation.

While Kompany acknowledges its significance, he refuses to be weighed down by the occasion.

“There's no need to say it any different than it is, it's a massive game for both teams,” the Burnley manager said Thursday. “It's part of what you have to face in a career. For these players who are going to be taking the field on that day, they're not the easiest ones in terms of leading into, but they are the ones that make you.”

Kompany has had an uncomfortable introduction to managing in England’s top flight after leading Burnley to promotion as second-division champions in his first year on the job.

It's been a different story this term, with his team picking up only four points from 13 games so far, having lost all seven of its home matches.

A win at Turf Moor would see it move above Sheffield United, which is in 18th place with five points under manager Paul Heckingbottom.

Both managers want to avoid the increased scrutiny that a loss would bring. A draw, meanwhile, would be seen as an opportunity missed.

There has been no suggestion, however, that Kompany is under threat after his achievements last season.

“If there is ever a story in the future that’s to be written about this club, it is how it behaves in moments like this. I can really say I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything like this," the former Manchester City captain said. “People are calm, people are together, supporting each other and when there is something that needs to be sorted out we can talk about it.”

No Premier League managers have been fired yet this season, bucking the trend of recent years. Last year, five managers had already lost their jobs by this point of the campaign.

There has been speculation about Heckingbottom's position and he was critical of his team after last week's 3-1 home loss to Bournemouth, another team that could be fighting for survival.

Sheffield United was also promoted last season, along with 17th-placed Luton. All three of the teams that came up look set to be in a fight for survival.

That only adds to the pressure when those teams come up against each other. But Heckingbottom, unlike Kompany, held back from adding to the hype ahead of Saturday's game.

“The fact it is Burnley, who are down there in around us, yeah everybody will be talking about it and it takes on its own importance,” he said.

Kompany endured his own disappointment last week when goals conceded in the 86th and 91st minutes gave West Ham a 2-1 win. But he said heads did not drop.

“There's no other way to put it, it was pretty cruel to finish the game in this way," Kompany said. "Obviously you carry that with you for a couple of days, but I think, as well, one of the things we've been good at is to press the reset button and go again.”

___

James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

James Robson, The Associated Press