Burnley could be boosted by the potential return of two key defenders from injury ahead of the new Premier League season.
The former missed Tuesday’s friendly against Preston with a minor knock but is expected to recover before the first league game, while the latter is recovering well from a thigh problem which ruled him out of the concluding weeks of last season (as per Lancashire Live).
The importance of the centre-back duo to Sean Dyche cannot be understated. Tarkowski played every minute of Burnley’s 2019/20 Premier League campaign and was their most-used player in all competitions throughout the season.
Club captain Mee had also been on course for an ever-present league campaign until injury at the end of June forced him to miss the Clarets’ final six games. Kevin Long stepped up in his absence and delivered some strong performances, but he too has had a delayed return to pre-season involvement.
With Ben Gibson effectively exiled and potentially being sold back to Middlesbrough, it left Dyche needing to play youngsters Jimmy Dunne and Bobby Thomas at centre-back against Preston yesterday, although the duo may well gain confidence from keeping the Lilywhites scoreless in a 0-0 draw.
Lancashire Live added that left-backs Charlie Taylor and Erik Pieters had both been utilised in a central defensive role in pre-season as Dyche attempts to have all bases covered in case of a shortage of natural options in that area.
While Dunne and Thomas should benefit from their integration into the first team, neither has played a competitive senior match for Burnley, so throwing even one of them into the fray for the Premier League opener this month looks very risky.
Mee and Tarkowski were unmovable as the Clarets’ centre-back partnership before the captain’s injury over the summer and both will likely be perceived as essential first team players by Dyche this coming season as well.
Whether they will win the race against time to be fit for 19 September remains to be seen but it is at least encouraging to hear reports that they could make it for the Leicester game, with Burnley benefitting in this case from not playing on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
Burnley fans, how crucial will it be to have Mee and Tarkowski fit for the start of the league campaign? Have your say by commenting below!
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