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As You Were For McNeil

High-flying wingman looks to finish what he's started

19 June 2020

Dwight McNeil hopes not too much has changed for the Clarets when they get back down to business.

Monday night’s return sees Burnley go to Manchester City for their first game since 7 March.

Playing for three Premier League points behind closed doors will be like nothing the players have experienced before.

But McNeil hopes other things still feel familiar as Sean Dyche’s men attempt the tough task of becoming only the third team to win this season at the Etihad Stadium, where defending champions City resumed their campaign with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Arsenal on the first night back from lockdown.

“They looked like they hadn’t been away,” admitted the Clarets’ wingman.

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“They performed really well, keep the ball really well and find pockets all over the pitch and that’s what their good at.

“I think we just have to look back on how well we played before lockdown. We were seven unbeaten and on a really good run. We’ve just to look after ourselves and try and get a result.

“We just have to keep playing the way we play and how we know.

“We know we can mix it up. We saw on Wednesday teams like to drop off, not press as much, so that gives us an opportunity to get on the ball too.

“We know we can play but need to be on our game as well.”

While the Clarets were collectively bang-in form ahead of the break brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, McNeil was also continuing to light up the top-flight stage in his first full season as a Premier League player.

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The 20-year-old is an ever-present so far this term and has at least been given the opportunity to take stock of his continuing progress during the three-month absence from competitive football.

“When games come thick and fast you don’t always get a chance to look at it,” he said.

“But, yeah, it’s been a good season - a proud season - but it shows that the players and gaffer have belief in me.”

McNeil’s performance as a creative force on the Clarets’ left flank were key as Burnley turned their season around from mid-January onwards.

Dyche’s men go into the first full round of fixtures since ‘Project Restart’ in 10th place in the table on 39 points.

They will not be at full strength for the trip to City with Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes and Johann Berg Gudmundsson all absent through injury and contract complications possibly affecting availability beyond that in a final nine-game run-in condensed into little more than a month.

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But McNeil insists everyone is up for the challenge of keeping the Clarets flying high in a fourth successive season of top-flight football.  

“I think everyone’s got that confidence within themselves and in the team, especially looking back on the last seven games and how we performed,” added the England under-21 international.

“We’re not too far away from that European spot. The main aim is to get past 40-point mark but we’re nearly there. It’s the comfort position, if you can call it that.

“We were all eager to get back. We knew about the circumstances across the world, but we were all eager to get back.

“Three games in a week is a really quick turnaround. It’s a bit like the start of the season, you want points on the board as early as you can and get the momentum going early on.

“Especially when the games are coming thick and fast, you never know where it could take us come the end of the season.”

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