When Liverpool travelled to Turf Moor in the second game of the 2016-17 season, Jurgen Klopp was starting his first full season in charge of the Reds and his team had already defeated Arsenal in the first game. Then at Turf Moor they ran in to Sean Dyche’s Burnley and their low-block defence. Try as they may, the high-tempo Liverpool were not able to unlock that defence and lost the game 2-0. It almost became a template that teams adopted to thwart the Reds. Liverpool again travel to Burnley on Wednesday night, but nothing is similar to that game two years ago. Burnley’s defence is nowhere near as good, Liverpool are not the high-tempo, high-scoring side they were till the end of last season and perhaps most importantly, they have learnt to win against sides that are defensively strong. A great example of that was the Merseyside derby on Sunday evening, which Liverpool won with literally seconds to spare.
No such luck for Burnley as the Clarets lost yet another game, this time away at Crystal Palace. In fact, Burnley are winless in last seven matches (D2 L5), having won only one game at Turf Moor, which was their fortress for the last two seasons. Wednesday’s game will be 300th in charge of Burnley for Sean Dyche, who has not been able to inspire his defence to perform at the same level as they did last season. Just like last season, Burnley top the league table after 14 games in terms of the number of chances conceded (299 this season vs 238 last). But, while last season, they had conceded 7.70 goals fewer than what the xG conceded predicted, this season, they have conceded 1.80 goals more than what the xG Conceded has predicted so far. Last season, they conceded a Big Chance almost every 70 minutes, which has fallen to a mere 32 minutes this season. To top that miserable defensive form, their goal is defended by Joe Hart, who has conceded the maximum number of Premier League goals against Liverpool.
Liverpool’s season has been different too. While last season, the Reds were pressing their opponents like crazy, this time, they are giving their opponents some time to build play. Their PPDA has increased to 11.5 from 10.69 last season. But, while last season they were conceding a Big Chance every 53 minutes, this season, they are conceding one every 88.5 minutes. This defensive form is the primary reason why Liverpool have had their second-best start in the top-flight – 36 points from 14 games is second only to 38 points from 14 games in 1990-91. However, everything is not hunky dory for the Reds as they struggle to find rhythm and form in both the midfield as well as the attack. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that a relatively easy fixture like this will help his team find both.
For Burnley, James Tarkowski was fit enough to make the bench against Palace and Sean Dyche may start him against Liverpool. But, Robbie Brady suffered an ankle injury late on against Crystal Palace on Saturday and is a doubt here. If Dyche tries to rotate his side a bit, Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes will hope to start.
For Liverpool, Roberto Firmino has looked tired recently and might be rested in favour of either Daniel Sturridge or the derby hero Divock Origi. Henderson comes back from suspension, so Klopp has multiple options in the midfield as well. In attack, Sadio Mane might be rested after he suffered a “cut in the foot” during the derby. Robertson has a thigh injury and will be assessed before the game. Lovren, Matip, and Clyne will all hope for a start should Klopp go in for a full rotation of his squad.
- Burnley have won just one of their eight Premier League games against Liverpool (D1 L6), beating them 2-0 at Turf Moor in August 2016, in the game mentioned above.
- After keeping a clean sheet in six consecutive league games against the Clarets, Liverpool have conceded at least once in each of their last four games against them. A bit like their overall season so far, Liverpool also find it hard to score in the first half against Burnley. All seven of their Premier League goals at Turf Moor have come in the second half.
- Liverpool have won just one of their last seven Premier League away games against sides starting the day in the relegation zone (D2 L4), the victory coming in their last such game – against Huddersfield in October.
- Burnley have conceded 12 goals in six home league games so far this season. It took them 15 games to concede 12 at Turf Moor last season. The visitors in the meanwhile, are very miserly in conceding – Liverpool have conceded just five goals this season in 14 games – only Chelsea (2008 -09) have conceded fewer (4) at this stage.
Johann Gudmundsson is the primary channel for Burnley’s attacks this season. Not only has he assisted 4 goals in the league so far, he has also scored two. xG for everyone of his possessions per 90 minutes is 0.18, which although not extra ordinary, underlines his importance for Sean Dyche’s side. His goal and assist helped Burnley win 2-1 against Cardiff away at the end of September and Dyche will hope that two months later, the Icelander can conjure up similar form and help him stem string of losses.
Jurgen Klopp has gone on record saying that he will consider rotation during the extremely busy few weeks coming up for his side. And if he were to rotate anyone in the Liverpool attack, it will have to be Roberto Firmino (looked very tired against Everton) and Sadio Mane (got a cut in the same game. Mohamed Salah was withdrawn early on Sunday evening and should be good to start on Wednesday night. Salah, although not in the same form as last season, leads the league in terms of xG + xA (12.70), scoring 7 and assisting 3 goals so far. He has only played one game against Burnley, scoring one goal. He will definitely want to increase that tally on Wednesday.
Even though Liverpool have not been as rampant as they were, Burnley’s weak defensive form does not augur well for them. Liverpool will take confidence from the last-minute derby win and should win comfortably on Wednesday and thus ensure that they do not allow Manchester City to run away at the top of the table.
Burnley 1 – 2 Liverpool