BURNLEY face their toughest Premier League assignment of the season on Saturday when they face champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

The Clarets are defending a three game unbeaten run in the top flight that has seen them move clear of the bottom three, but they will be up against it in Manchester, as odds of 33/1 for a Clarets win suggest.

Here are the key issues facing Sean Dyche as he prepares his side for a daunting test.

Midfield balance

It's been a return to 4-4-2 for the Clarets over the last four games, beginning with Dyche pairing Ashley Barnes and Sam Vokes together in attack at Wolves. Matej Vydra replaced Barnes for the wins against Bournemouth and Cardiff, before Barnes was back in the side against Huddersfield.

But could the trip to face Pep Guardiola's side necessitate a change? Jeff Hendrick played in the number 10 role in the first four games of the season and he's far more adept at dropping back into midfield to make up the numbers than either Barnes or Vydra.

Burnley certainly aren't going to win the midfield battle against City, but getting some extra bodies in the middle of the park can help try and stem the tide from the likes of Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho, who will look to set the tempo and link up with those in advance of them such as David Silva and Raheem Sterling.

Going with three in midfield was the approach Dyche adopted at the Etihad for the 3-0 league defeat last season, with Steven Defour, Jack Cork and Hendrick playing, although he was regularly fielding that midfield three at the time. It was the same approach in the FA Cup third round at the Etihad, with Ashley Westwood in for Defour on that occasion.

A combined scoreline of 7-1 to City might not suggest much success, but the Clarets were undone by a very debatable penalty in the league game for Sergio Aguero to open the scoring on the half hour and actually lead for just over 30 minutes in the cup tie.

During international duty with the Republic of Ireland Hendrick admitted to his frustration at being out of the side of late, but he could be back in this weekend.

Defour and Brady

There was good news coming out of the Barnfield Training Centre this week, with Defour and Robbie Brady both playing 90 minutes in a behind-closed-doors demolition of AFC Fylde, with the Clarets taking the first set 6-3.

The reaction to the appearance of the duo was overwhelmingly positive, but anybody pinning their hopes on either player to turn the tide in Burnley's favour on Saturday might be disappointed.

Defour may have a chance of being involved, he has already made his first team return - playing 70 minutes in the Carabao Cup defeat at Burton Albion - but he hasn't played in the Premier League since January 20 and this would certainly be throwing him in at the deep end. The Belgian is a midfielder who thrives in possession, something the Clarets are likely to have very little off against City.

Brady hasn't played a competitive first team game since suffering a serious knee injury early in December and has suffered several minor setbacks on his road back to full fitness. Coming through 90 minutes is a huge step forward for the winger, but it would be a huge surprise if he was to be involved this weekend.

Hart's return

The Etihad Stadium is familiar territory for Burnley goalkeeper Joe Hart, but Saturday will be the first time he's ever experienced it as a visiting player.

The 31-year-old never faced City before moving to the club from Shrewsbury Town and he couldn't play against them when on loan at West Ham United last season.

How Hart copes with his return will be both intriguing and important from a Clarets point of view. He might have been ostracised under Guardiola but City's fans haven't forgotten the impact Hart had in Manchester and he will be in for a warm welcome at the Etihad.

He'll also be in for a busy afternoon and if he heads back to his former club inspired and determined to prove a point then his performance could be crucial for Burnley.