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Cup Of Cheer For Trio

Steven Defour, Stephen Ward and Nick Pope could make FA Cup comebacks

3 January 2019

The Clarets could have three key men back as they launch their FA Cup bid against Barnsley on Saturday.

Steven Defour, Stephen Ward and Nick Pope are all in contention to figure against the League One side in the third-round tie at Turf Moor.

England goalkeeper Pope has been out of first-team action since dislocating a shoulder in the Clarets’ opening game of the season at Aberdeen in the Europa League in July.

Defour hasn’t featured since 1 December because of a calf problem, while Stephen Ward last played in the Carabao Cup at the end of September before being forced to undergo knee surgery.

Stephen Ward last played at Turf Moor in August

But all three – who played a major part in the Clarets’ success last season – are back to fitness and may get the opportunity to face Barnsley as manager Sean Dyche prepares to make changes following a heavy workload of Premier League games.

“Steven Defour has got a good chance for the weekend and Stephen Ward has a chance as well. He’s going really well and has been training for a couple of weeks now,” said the Burnley boss.

“Equally we will consider Popey as well as being part of that group and part of that thinking.

“Popey is absolutely chomping. He’s desperate to play.

“So there are three that come into the thinking.”

Steven Defour scored a stunning FA Cup goal against Bristol City in 2017

As well as bringing experience and international pedigree to the Clarets' cup line-up, the return of the trio would bode well for boosting squad strength for the second half for the league season as the Clarets look to build on their back-to-back wins over West Ham and Huddersfield to continue their climb away from the bottom three.

Saturday’s tie (kick-off 12.30pm) may also give opportunities to players who haven’t been regular starters over the past few weeks – including the likes of defenders Kevin Long and Ben Gibson, midfielder Jeff Hendrick and frontmen Sam Vokes and Matej Vydra.

And while maintaining Premier League status remains the top priority for Dyche, he is also keen to start a cup run following round-three exits in four of the last six seasons

“Our cup record has not been great here, but there’s always time to correct that,” said the Burnley boss.

“I have a lot of respect for the FA Cup, which I have always said.

“We have got a more competitive group now and the team we put out I think can win games, particularly this game, but they have to deliver a performance.”

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