It has been a crazy week of football, with Arsenal recording their worst drubbing in Champions League over two legs and Barcelona pulling off a miracle at Camp Nou. It is a bit underwhelming hence, that such a week is ending in a weekend when only four league matches and four FA Cup quarter finals will be played. Arsenal, who have dropped out of the top four, are playing the non-league Lincoln City in one of those quarterfinals and Spurs are playing Milwall for the first time in 27 years in another quarterfinal. But for Liverpool and Burnley, this Sunday brings a chance to cement their league positions in their respective peer sets.
Liverpool will be hoping that their Robinhood avatar takes a break this weekend, as after having beaten a top side last weekend, they are playing a bottom half side this Sunday, and these are the games that the Reds fans have come to dread. One of the recent stats that came up regarding the Reds is that if they are facing an opponent with more than 3,300 Euro Club Index value, they play like a league winning team like Chelsea. But if they are facing any other team, they play like a mid-table side like West Brom. Jurgen Klopp and the Reds’ supporters will however be hoping that they can indeed play much better on Sunday, as they have a chance to at least temporarily close the gap with other top four contenders and also move away from Arsenal in fifth.
Burnley, on the other hand must be looking to consolidate their mid-table position. Amazingly unbeatable at home, the Clarets have been the worst away side this season, searching for the first away victory and a move beyond the current 2 away points that they have. Sean Dyche must be hoping that Liverpool end up doing their all too familiar wilting act on Sunday as a win can bring the Clarets closer to the top half of the table. Perhaps against any other side, Burnley could have had lesser confidence, but against Liverpool this season, we cannot fault them for feeling at least a little bit of optimism despite the odds being stacked against them.
Liverpool will continue to miss Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge due to their respective injuries. Added to that list now is Roberto Firmino, who got injured during the Arsenal game and has not been able to train throughout the week. He might be replaced with Divock Origi. Dejan Lovren was on the bench against Arsenal and he might continue to be used as a substitute, especially as Klavan gave a good account of himself against the Gunners. In Henderson’s absence, captaining duty will fall to James Milner, who should start in his 600th league appearance in England. But Henderson’s replacement in the midfield will continue to be Emre Can, who is stuck in a contract extension dispute with the club.
For Burnley, Tom Heaton should be back in goal this Sunday after missing the last match against Swansea. Joey Barton is expected to miss the trip to Anfield after injuring his hamstring in the match against the Swans. Johann Gudmundsson, Nick Pope, and Steven Defour will continue to remain out due to their respective injuries. On the other hand, Ashley Barnes should be back after serving his one-match ban.
- Liverpool haven’t lost a Premier League home game against a promoted side since the 2010-11 campaign against Blackpool (W12 D5 since). Burnley did beat the Reds at Turf Moor earlier in the season but they have not won both the league games against Liverpool in a season since 1929-30, when they got relegated after doing the double over the Reds.
- Burnley have the worst away record in the Premier League this season; winning just two points from 39 available (W0 D2 L11). They will be hoping that they do not match or break Derby County’s 2007-08 record of just three points from away games. They have six away games remaining to ensure that they get more points than Derby County.
- Burnley’s last win at Anfield was in September 1974 (1-0). Since then they’ve drawn one and lost eight of their nine visits there in all competitions, scoring once and conceding 19 goals. In fact, in the Premier League era, the loss at Turf Moor was Liverpool’s first against Burnley, as Clarets had lost all four matches before that game, conceding 11 goals and scoring none.
It increasingly seems that Roberto Firmino will not be able to play on Sunday that means that Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho will have to pitch in with goals. At home, against a slightly diffident Burnley defenders, Coutinho has a better chance of making a difference. His ability to take successful long shots, cut inside, and dribble past opponents is likely to put him in better shooting positions than Mane or any other attacker, who is likely to be more dependent on pace to break the invariably compact and physically strong defense that Burnley is likely to set up. Coutinho averages 3.5 shots per game and 2.3 key passes per game i.e. he single-handedly can create up to six shots from a fairly close range.
When Burnley played Liverpool at Turf Moor earlier in the season, they had conceded 80% of the possession and 26 shots to the Reds. At Anfield they might end up facing even more shots. To ensure that they leave Anfield with at least one point, Burnley will need a superlative performance from their keeper – Tom Heaton. Heaton is proving himself to be one of the best goal keepers in the league this season, putting in 4.3 saves per game. His strengths include shot stopping reflexes, saving close range shots and concentration. Sean Dyche must be hoping that his keeper uses all of these strengths to allow Burnley to steal a point or three on Sunday.
This season, Liverpool’s form against bottom-half teams has been exceptionally poor but Burnley have been even worse on the road. Burnley have traditionally been very shy in front of the goal at Anfield and it does not look like this will change a lot on Sunday. Despite some key absences up front, the home team should have the quality to put a couple past the Clarets and in the end win the game to match their total number of wins from the last season (16).
Liverpool 2 – 0 Burnley