Stephen Ward says Burnley are even more determined to succeed this season as they prepare to take on last term’s promotion rivals in a Boxing Day cracker.
Middlesbrough’s visit to a sold-out Turf Moor pits together the two sides who made it up automatically from the Championship after a titanic tussle for top spot.
The Clarets needed a 23-game unbeaten run to hold off the challenge of the Teessiders in the climax to last season.
But Ward believes Sean Dyche’s men are ready to surpass even that effort to protect their top-flight status.
The Clarets’ defender said: “It’s great to be playing in the Premier League. We worked very hard last year in a difficult league to get our promotion.
“I think the hunger this year is even bigger than it was last year to make sure we stay here.
“A lot of the lads had a taste of it two years ago. We probably just fell a little bit short in terms of experience and maybe that bit of quality here and there.
“I feel like we’ve rectified that and I feel there is a different hunger in the squad, and you could feel that from day one.”
Boro have edged above Burnley in the league table as a 3-0 victory over struggling Swansea City last weekend took them a point above the Clarets and into 14th place.
Stephen Ward has started all bar one of the Clarets' Premier League games this season
But both clubs are still looking to make it a productive festive period to pull clear of the bottom three and Ward acknowledges the importance of Monday’s game – the first of a Turf Moor double-header for the Clarets who entertain Sunderland on Saturday-week.
The Republic of Ireland international added: “They have done very well. They have had a similar start to ourselves.
“But we know a lot about Middlesbrough. We battled hard with them last year to get promoted and we are both in the same situation now.
“We are both vying to stay in the Premier League.
“We are under no illusions that it’s a big game. I’m sure they are looking at it and pin-pointing it as being a massive game.
“But we will prepare as we do for any other game and I’m sure on the day the best team will come out on top.”