HULL CITY manager Steve Bruce last night stressed victory today over Burnley is unlikely to be enough on its own to guarantee his side Premier League safety.
The Tigers host the Clarets, who will be relegated if they return to Lancashire with anything less than three points, sitting one place and one point above the drop zone.
Sunderland, the team directly below Bruce’s men in the table, travel to Everton for the lunchtime fixture meaning Yorkshire’s sole representative in the top flight could be dumped back in the bottom three before kicking off at the KC Stadium.
Even if the Black Cats lose, however, the table is so tight – just two points separate Dick Advocaat’s men from Aston Villa in 14th – and results so unpredictable of late that several twists and turns are likely to lie ahead.
It is why Bruce believes 37 points – the tally Hull will reach if they win today – might not yet be enough to keep a club up.
He said: “We would love a result, of course we would, But it is going to go further than this weekend for us, even if we do win.
“I still believe that we might need two results. I think it will go down to the wire by the look of things, but a win against Burnley would certainly help us.”
Such are the high stakes, today’s visit of Burnley – a team who have had something of an Indian sign over the Tigers in recent years – is arguably the East Riding club’s biggest fixture since clinching promotion to the Premier League two years ago at home to Cardiff City.
Bruce added: “Burnley and QPR are in bigger trouble than us, that’s for sure. Up until a few weeks ago, everyone thought Aston Villa and Newcastle were safe.
“Then, the accumulation of points that Leicester have taken and the points we have taken has changed that. If they don’t get a result this weekend and teams like ourselves, Leicester and Sunderland do, they are really in it.
“All I can say is that, at the moment, we are better than three teams – and that’s the way it has got to stay.”
Asked if the Hull players will be told how Sunderland have fared ahead of their own game, Bruce replied: “They will find out. It is human nature. But I don’t think they will get too worked up.
“They won’t be watching it, I know that much. If Everton can do us a turn, then great. But, whatever happens in the Sunderland game, we have still got to get a result. It is pointless getting yourself too worked up about another game.”
Nikica Jelavic, Hull’s top scorer with eight goals in 18 starts this term, could return to the starting line-up to face Sean Dyche’s men following a brief cameo from the bench against Arsenal on Monday night.
The Croat, who recently missed six weeks following knee surgery, has been something of a talisman for the Tigers with 25 of their 34 points having come when he has been on the field.
Until the recent back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and Liverpool, Jelavic had also scored in all Hull’s league victories this season bar the opening-day triumph at QPR.
“It is a big decision,” admitted Bruce on whether Jelavic starts.
“Sone (Aluko) has played in the last few games and he was terrific in two games in particular, against Palace and Liverpool.
“That said, Jelavic comes into the equation because he is a proven goalscorer. Whether he is quite ready to do 90 minutes, that is a big doubt. But he will play some part.”
Burnley’s precarious position at the foot of the table means the Lancastrian club are likely to have to be bold today.
Memories of November’s 1-0 triumph over Hull – their eighth in nine meetings between the two clubs – will also be fresh for Dyche’s men, not least because it represented their first victory of the season at the 11th attempt.
Bruce added: “I think Burnley will play the way they have all season. They are what they are. I have the greatest of respect for their manager and the mentality of his team will be no different.
“They have made it difficult for everyone because the expectation was that they would be the whipping boys. They certainly haven’t been that, they have been terrific.
“People mention our poor run (against Burnley) but we hadn’t won at Crystal Palace in ages but we managed it a couple of weeks ago. I also remember our win at Turf Moor when we came up (in 2013).
“The main thing is ourselves, and we have got to make sure we don’t slip into that bottom three by Saturday night. That is the most vital part.”
Match preview: Page 3.