Newly-promoted Burnley were considered as arguably the favourites to be relegated in 2016-17, with a comparatively meagre budget and a squad seemingly short on quality not expected to be sufficient to stop them from making another instant return to the Championship.

However, they eventually secured top-flight survival for the first time in 42 years with a couple of games to spare and finished six points above the drop zone thanks largely to their formidable home record at Turf Moor.

The departure of Michael Keane to Everton for a potential fee of £30m ($39.1m) will come as sizable blow to Burnley's chances of once again defying the doom-mongers and avoiding the cliched second-season syndrome.

Sean Dyche has yet to sign a replacement for the highly-rated England international as he prepares to hand an extended chance to James Tarkowski and eventually convert new signing Charlie Taylor into an accomplished centre-back.

With the exception of former Leeds United defender Taylor, Burnley's slate of summer additions to date have certainly not been flashy but perhaps crucially all boast versatility and significant Premier League experience. The industrious Jon Walters and Phil Bardsley both join from Stoke City, while the deal to bring former loanee Jack Cork back to Lancashire from Swansea City could be worth as much as £10m.

Joey Barton, George Boyd, Michael Kightly, Rouwen Hennings and Tendayi Darikwa have all followed Keane out of the exit door, while veteran goalkeeper Paul Robinson has decided to call it a career. Burnley have thus far repelled fleeting interest in controversial forward Andre Gray, meanwhile.

Last season

Premier League: 16th

FA Cup: Fifth round

EFL Cup: Second round

Top scorer: Sam Vokes (12)

Manager - Sean Dyche

Sean Dyche
Sean Dyche is about to enter his fifth full season in charge at Burnley Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Appointed as successor to Eddie Howe in 2012, the gravelly-voiced former Watford boss has guided Burnley to two separate promotions and worked wonders in ensuring that his team never really flirted with relegation at any point last term.

English football's seventh longest-serving manager, previously mentioned in connection with Sunderland, was installed as the bookmakers' favourite to replace compatriot Sam Allardyce at Crystal Palace in June, although that job eventually went to Frank de Boer.

You get the feeling that a new challenge may await the experienced 46-year-old sooner rather than later, although for now Burnley will be very pleased to have him still steering the ship.

Key player - Tom Heaton

With Keane now gone, popular captain Heaton arguably assumes the mantle of Burnley's most influential performer. The former Manchester United goalkeeper earned supporters' player of the year honours last season after keeping 10 clean sheets in 35 appearances and went onto make his first start for England in an eventful 3-2 friendly defeat by France in Paris.

His memorable 'starfish' denial of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic scissor-kick volley during a goalless draw at Old Trafford in October was labelled by Peter Schmeichel as perhaps the best save in Premier League history.

Tom Heaton
Tom Heaton impressed with his consistent performances between the posts in 2016-17 Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Despite attracting interest from elsewhere, Heaton, who signed a new four-year contract in July 2016 before travelling to the European Championship, has professed unwavering loyalty to his current employers as he bids to continue playing regular football and win a place in Gareth Southgate's Three Lions squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Expectations

The odds again look set to be stacked against Burnley, whose primary aim will be simply to keep their heads above water and avoid any nervy relegation dogfight for the second year in succession.

Further new signings are necessary to enhance the level of quality and competition for places in Dyche's current squad, while Walters will be relied upon to help Gray and Vokes bolster an attack that last year stood as the most goal-shy outside of the bottom three.

A failure to replace a player as crucial as Keane would represent an enormous gamble that could very well backfire in a major way.

IBT prediction - 18th

If they can remain strong on their own patch and improve a pitiful record of just one solitary away victory in 19 league games in 2016-17, then it is certainly possible to foresee Burnley battling their way to another lower mid-table finish.

However, if Turf Moor proves to be anything less than a fortress and a couple of quality signings - including a defender - are not forthcoming before the transfer deadline then relegation looks the most likely outcome.

Michael Keane
Will Dyche find an adequate replacement for Keane before the transfer window closes on 31 August? IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images