The first international break is almost upon us and what stands between us and the break is this weekend of Premier League action. For Liverpool, the action will shift to Turf Moor where Burnley await them in the last game of Saturday evening.
Burnley started the season well – beating Southampton 3-0 in the opening fixture, before losing to Arsenal (away) 1-2, and then drawing against Wolves at home. This week, they also lost to Sunderland in the League Cup. In the League, Sean Dyche’s men have played generally well and have been stumped by luck, as shown by injury-time penalty that Wolves got to equalise last weekend. Both those games in the league in which Clarets dropped points have been away games, while the game on Saturday is at Turf Moor. Sean Dyche will hope that his side can deliver a positive result before heading into the international break.
Liverpool have started with three victories in three league games. They have also just found their Champions League group stage rivals (Napoli, Genk and FC Salzburg). It is fair to say that the priorities on Jurgen Klopp’s mind are going to be a bit different than those on Sean Dyche’s mind. Klopp will want to win to make sure his side goes in the international break at the top of the table and in the process also break the club-record of 12 consecutive league wins. From the perspective of their attack, Liverpool showed signs of going back to the best form of last two seasons in the game against Arsenal. However, if Klopp is concerned about something, it will be the Reds’ defence. In Alisson’s absence, the defence has been error-prone and is yet to keep a clean sheet. Klopp will hope that this visit to Turf Moor brings the first clean sheet for Liverpool, in addition to a thirteenth consecutive league win.
- Burnley have lost eight of their 10 Premier League games against Liverpool (W1 D1 L8), winning 2-0 at Turf Moor in August 2016. Burnley’s recent record is not inspiring either – since picking up three consecutive wins between March and April, Burnley have won just one of their last seven Premier League games.
- Liverpool have won four of their last five away Premier League visits to Turf Moor against Burnley (W4 D0 L1). The Reds also happen to be on a club-record of 12 consecutive wins in the league, a record that they will break if they win on Saturday.
- Liverpool are also looking to become just the sixth team in English top-flight history to win their first fur league games in consecutive campaigns, after Newcastle (94-95 and 95-96), Arsenal (03-04 and 04-05), Chelsea (04-05/ 05-06 and 09-10/10-11) and Manchester City (15-16/16-17).
- Burnley are the only team to have beaten Liverpool in last three years. In 10 Premier League games played in August, Liverpool are unbeaten winning last eight in a row (D2).
It is fair to say that Ashley Barnes is in the form of his life. Only Sergio Aguero (16) and Sadio Mane (15) have scored more Premier League goals in 2019 than Barnes (13). Barnes has scored in each of hs last four Premier League matches (5 goals), which is the best for a Burnley player. He also loves to play against the Big Six. 12 of his 36 Premier League goals have been against the Big Six. Barnes’ xG90 is 0.74, out of Burnley’s total xG90 of 1.18. This roughly translates to – Barnes is expected to score 3 out of every 4 goals Burnley score at the moment. No doubt Sean Dyche will hope that Barnes scores as per that average on Saturday.
Virgil van Dijk
For Barnes to score though he will have to get past the freshly crowned UEFA Player of the Year – Virgil van Dijk. Not only does the tall Dutch man offer solid defence against Burnley’s tall players (72.7% aerial duel win rate so far) but he is also a regular threat to the opponents’ goal (6 touches in opponent’s box). For a central defender, 6 touches in the opponent’s box is special. On top of that, although his xG90 is merely 0.05, he can be a creative distributor. This is evidenced by his xGBuildup90 i.e. total xG for every possession a player is involved in, excluding shots and key passes. VVD’s xGBuildup90 is 0.32, which means that his involvement for 90 minutes can lead to 0.32 expected goals for Liverpool.
For the Clarets. Daniel Drinkwater made his Burnley debut in their shock 3-1 defeat in the EFL Cup to Sunderland in the midweek. Joe Hart also featured on Wednesday and conceded three goals from four shots on target. It is unlikely that Sean Dyche will start either of them. Johann Gudmundsson has a minor calf injury and is unlikely to feature here, and will likely be replaced by Aaron Lennon or Jeff Hendrick. The likely lineup for the Clarets Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Pieters; McNeil, Westwood, Cork, Hendrick; Wood, Barnes.
For Liverpool, the absentees could include Naby Keita, Lovren, Clyne, and Alisson due to their respective injuries. Two tactical change could see Joe Gomez replace Trent Alexander Arnold to counter Burnley’s high-balls to the flanks. James Milner or Oxlade-Chamberlain could replace Gini Wijanldum in the starting XI. The likely lineup for Liverpool could be – Adrian; Gomez, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson; Mane, Firmino, Salah.
Ever since that counter-intuitive loss that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool suffered against Sean Dyche’s Burnley in August 2016, this fixture is touted as a potential banana skin for Liverpool. But, mentally this Liverpool side is much different than the side three years back. Even if Barnes manages to put Burnley in front, it is very likely that Liverpool will come from behind and grab the win. It is unlikely to be a goalfest but in all likelihood, Liverpool will win this game.
Burnley 1 – 2 Liverpool