Burnley’s Premier League struggles this season have come as no surprise to manager Sean Dyche.
The Clarets ended last season in seventh place and that ‘best-of-the-rest’ finish earned them a return to European football for the first time in 51 years.
But this campaign has been a sobering one for Dyche’s side, who strung together three straight wins earlier this month before clinching a crucial point at Chelsea on Monday to all but snuff out any lingering threat of relegation.
“Because we had a good season last season I didn’t go into this season thinking it was going to be easy,” said Dyche, whose side are nine points and 17 goals better off than third-bottom Cardiff with three games remaining.
“In fact, I knew it was going to be a tough season because it brings a completely different demand.
“Not just European football, but the exposure of last season and the change of mentality from outside.
“It is very tough in the Premier League and there are a lot of teams like us, for whom every year is a real big challenge to compete and stay in the Premier League.
“Every year is a challenge in the Premier League when you work with our financial structure.”
Burnley could have a big say in title race as Manchester City visit Turf Moor on Sunday, but Dyche is more interested in his own side’s run-in than the titanic battle which is unfolding for the Premier League crown.
“To be honest that is their concern,” Dyche added. “I’m impressed with my players and how they have kept to their challenge because the challenge is different when you’re staring trouble in the face with 12 points from (the first) 19 games.
“That is as strong a mentality of a group I have seen in the Premier League this season, to turn that around and deliver performances.
“My comment on them (City and Liverpool) is that is a different kind of challenge.
“They are fighting for what they need to do. Having a strong jaw is seen in different ways in the Premier League and my lot have shown that.
“I think the gap between the top two sides and the others shows their prowess.
“It is a such a fine line between the two and there are varying reasons why they are both so strong, so we will have to wait and see what happens.
“But we will look after ourselves and try to give a performance and take that into the game, which just happens to be a big game against Man City that could happen to mean something to them.”