The Premier League run-in will kick-off in the earnest this weekend and with nine games left to play for each team, each team has a clear target they want to achieve by the end of the season. Burnely (16th with 30 points), will want to avoid the relegation zone and Liverpool will want to keep the title race alive for as long as possible. So, when Burnley travel to Anfield on Sunday for the lunch-time kick-off, it is fair to say that both teams will have something to play for.
Liverpool would have been in a far better position, had they not squandered their many chances against Everton at Goodison Park. But they find themselves back in the second position, chasing the title favourites Manchester City who are one point ahead. Draws like the ones against Everton and Manchester United have hurt Liverpool more than the lone loss they have suffered, and Klopp knows that. He mentioned that the Reds have had ample training this week in his press conference and we can be sure that a lot of that training time would have been devoted to ensuring that a collective attacking failure does not repeat at least for the rest of the season. Among the Liverpool fans, talk of treating the last nine games as nine finals is rife but their failure to win five games in 2019 so far has left the Reds in a position, where even if they win all nine of their “finals” they might still end up a point below the rampant Manchester City.
Burnley are slightly better off but at the other end of the table. Currently, 16th with 30 points – 5 more than the 18th placed Cardiff City, they are far better compared to where they were after the Boxing Day fixtures. Since then, they have played 10, won 5, drawn 3 and lost two – the losses coming in the last two fixtures. Sean Dyche has again miraculously turned the Clarets around but to make sure that it is not a false hope, Burnley will want to create more distance between them and the relegation zone. That would require Burnley to play aggressively on Sunday with an aim to leave Anfield with at least a point or three.
- Liverpool have won nine of their last 11 home games against Burnley in all competitions (D2) since a 0-1 loss in September 1974. In fact, Burnley have picked up just four points from 27 available points in the Premier League against Liverpool (W1 D1 L7), winning 2-0 at Turf Moor in August 2016 before drawing this exact fixture last season.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 35 Premier League home games (W25 D10). There have been only three longer unbeaten runs in the history of the Premier League – Chelsea (86 games between March 2004 – October 2008), Manchester City (37 games between December 2010 and December 2012), and Manchester United (36 games between December 1998 and December 2000).
- But it is not all doom and gloom for the Clarets. They have won two of their last three Premier League games played on Sunday (L1), as many as they had in their previous 20 played on the day (W2 D4 L14). They have also lost only once in their last five away Premier League games (W2 D2), albeit it was their last game on the road – a 2-0 loss to Newcastle at St. James’ Park.
- The stats are a bit gloomy for the Reds as well. Liverpool have failed to win five of their nine Premier League games in 2019 (W4 D4 L1), while they had failed to win only three of their first 20 games in the season before the turn of the year (W17 D3 L0).
Roberto Firmino started the Everton game on the bench and came on in the 2nd half but was not able to influence the game as much as Klopp would have liked. However, it is perhaps fair to say that his work rate at the top and his craftiness were both missed slightly for a large part of the match. With Firmino fully fit, it is natural that he will slot back at the top for Liverpool. The Brazilian forward has scored 9 and assisted 4 in 28 appearances over 2,108 minutes. While his xG90 and xA90 rates of 0.44 xG per 90 minutes and 0.20 xA per 90 minutes indicate a good chance of him contributing a goal whenever he plays full 90 minutes, his real value comes from his build-up play. His xGChain90 of 0.72 indicates that on an average, just him being involved in the build-up over 90 minutes adds 0.72 xG for Liverpool. This is second-best after Salah but given the Egyptian’s dip in form, Klopp will look for others to pitch in, both in the build-up, as well as in the attack and Firmino is ideal for both.
It is almost fair to say that Burnley’s recent turnaround is down to Ashley Barnes’ and Chris Wood’s form. The pair has combined to score Burnley’s last 9 goals in the Premier League, of which Barnes has scored 5. Barnes has scored 9 and assisted 2 goals over 28 appearances (1,587 minutes). He has the opportunity to reach double figures in goals scored and become the fourth Burnley player in the club’s history to do so in the Premier League. Barnes’ xG90 + xA90 (0.65+0.15) indicate that over the course of 90 minutes, he can prove to be extremely dangerous with an 80% chance of contributing a goal. His xGchain90 of 0.68 also indicates that his build-up play is also effective.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is close to a return to the first team but will still need time to acclimatize back in. Roberto Firmino should come back in place of Divock Origi. James Milner has a muscle injury and is doubtful for the game on Sunday. That will possibly allow either Naby Keita or Xherdan Shaqiri to come back to the starting XI.
Burnley are expected to be without Aaron Lennon (knee injury) , Jonathan Walters and Steven Defour (calf strain) for Sunday’s trip to Anfield.
As Jurgen Klopp mentioned in the pre-match press conference, Liverpool need to focus on winning the remaining games and not on Manchester City’s results. Well, truth be said, Liverpool have let the baton slip over the last two away games and even winning all the remaining nine games might not be enough for them to win the title. But not winning games such a Burnley at home will definitely hurt their chances even more. We can expect Liverpool to go out with attacking intent against a resurgent but defensive Burnley side and expect the Reds to win with a comfortable scoreline.
Liverpool 3 – 0 Burnley