Sean Dyche insists Burnley are aware of the challenge ahead as they prepare for an away trip to face Chelsea this weekend.
The Clarets head to Stamford Bridge with the Blues currently sitting seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
Burnley could see first-hand the quality of their opponents when Chelsea came from behind to register an impressive 3-1 victory in the reverse fixture at Turf Moor in the season’s curtain raiser back in August.
However, Dyche believes his team have come a long way since then and will approach their visit to West London with a clear mind and freedom.
He said: “They’re a great side who are playing some good football at the moment and are very strong.
“We are a side that are learning and progressing, but we’ve shown that we are capable of competing at this level.
“I think we’re growing into the season, but we know that we need to find the balance and that balance has to be a clear mind that we do need more points, of course.
“I’ve said all along that we have that underdog spirit and that freedom to play. The expectation is massive on them for games like this.
“We go there clear-minded, ready and raring to play.”
Despite slipping into Premier League relegation zone, Burnley go to Stamford Bridge on the back of two encouraging performances against West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United.
And while the Clarets boss admits to a degree of frustration about the last two results, he maintains the belief that his side will soon be repaid with more points, as the season slowly
approaches its climax.
Dyche added: “I’m encouraged by the way the team have been progressing this season. There’s a story behind results and that’s not a naïve one, you take results whatever they come.
“We’ve had a couple of games where we had to grind a result out; we’ve had some good results when we played very well. And we’ve had some go against us when we played very well.
“It’s not about one or the other, but about performing. I think that if you’re performing well it pays you back over a longer period.
“There are no guarantees, of course, but our level of performance has been generally very good, particularly in the last two games when I was very happy with the way the team went about
“There’s still frustration with certain key moments in games and things that happened where we know we could do better.
“I thought we were excellent throughout at Manchester United last week, but we didn’t get the result and we know that needs to change. We’re in a market where details get picked out and
that’s what’s happened to us a few times.
“We’re doing better. We’re scoring more freely, but we’ve got to make sure we find that balance – putting it at one end, stopping it at the other. That’s it in its brutal form.”
Stephen Ward is back in contention after the ankle injury sustained back in December against Newcastle United.
Elsewhere, Matt Taylor is continuing his recovery from an Achilles injury after a reaction to a spur on his heel following his operation.
Long-term absentee Dean Marney has also had a successful operation on his cruciate ligament injury this week on his road to recovery.
Martin Atkinson will take charge of the Clarets trip to Stamford Bridge this weekend. The West Yorkshire official has refereed 31 games this season, issuing 118 yellow cards and 4 red cards in
Atkinson’s last Burnley fixture came back in November 2014, when Sean Dyche’s men won 1-2 against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
Four players were cautioned on that day, Tom Heaton and Danny Ings for the Clarets and two for the hosts.
Mr Atkinson will be assisted M Mullarkey, S Child and fourth official Kevin Friend.
Tickets for this fixture are now completely sold out. Thank you for your magnificent support!