Verdict: Total goals under 3.5
Best odds: 8/13
Liverpool and Burnely are set to face each other at Anfield on Thursday evening, in what will be the 19th Premier League game of the season for the hosts and the 18th for the visitors. It should be an interesting one too – Burnely were the only team in the English top flight to leave Anfield undefeated last season when a second-half strike from Jay Rodriguez cancelled out Andy Robertson’s opener in the first half.
Liverpool’s relatively poor form in recent matches has been the subject of much debate in the last couple of days. The defending champions haven’t won a league game since thrashing Crystal Palace 0-7 at Selhurst Park in mid-December. They failed to beat West Bromwich Albion at home (1-1), Newcastle United away (0-0), Southampton away (1-0) and Manchester United at home (0-0). Obviously, they didn’t score a single goal in the last three matches. The only triumph in that time came in the FA Cup as a severe rush of Covid-19 cases forced Aston Villa to field an extremely youthful side in the third round at Villa Park, and Jurgen Klopp’s team had no trouble going through (1-4).
With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez both out probably for the season, many doubted if Liverpool’s back line would be up to scratch. However, it turns out that those who have been called to step in, midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, as well as youngsters Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams, are doing surprisingly well. It’s at the other end of the pitch where the problems seem to be, as their once formidable attacking trio keep firing blanks.
All in all, Liverpool are now in fourth place with 34 points, four less than Leicester City at the top (though with a game in hand on the Foxes), three less than Manchester United in second, and one less than Manchester City in third.
There has been one particularly good piece of news for Liverpool – Joel Matip is finally back in full training and is available to play in this match, which means Henderson is likely to resume his usual role in midfield alongside Thiago Alcantara and Georginio Wijnaldum. Alternatively, Klopp could opt to give the Dutchman some rest and field Xherdan Shaqiri instead, for added creativity through a player usually closer to the opposition goal.
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have been misfiring lately, yes, but Klopp has very little choice when it comes to the front line. Diogo Jota is still out with a knee problem, so the only option for change upfront would be Divock Origi, who is yet to score a Premier League goal this season.
It’s going to be a season of fierce fight for survival for the Clarets. At the moment, they are in 17th place with 16 points, four above Fulham who top the relegation zone with both teams on 17 matches played. West Brom and Sheffield United sit at the bottom, with 11 and five points respectively, and with 19 games behind them.
Burnley haven’t exactly been on great form recently either. Since the 0-0 draw away to Aston Villa on Deember 17th, they beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 at home and followed it up with a 1-0 triumph over Sheffield, but then they were beaten 0-1 at home by Manchester United and by West Ham away, also by one goal to nothing. The third round of the FA Cup saw them take on League One side MK Dons, and they scraped through on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
But as for Burnley, these results are no surprise. That’s the way they play under Sean Dyche – watertight defence (as you see, they didn’t concede more than one goal in any of the games mentioned above), and in attack, they try and take what they can get from set-pieces and counterattacks.
Dyche could have the full squad at his disposal for the Anfield trip.
“We are just about there. There are a couple we are getting news on for tomorrow but generally we are just about there,” he said. “There’s certainly nothing serious at the moment and long may that continue.”
The Clarets boss has welcomed defender Charlie Taylor back into the fold after the defender suffered a hamstring issue against Sheffield and subsequently missed the Manchester United and West Ham defeats. Winger Dwight McNeill is also in contention and will be looking to start, having recovered from a groin problem and made a substitute appearance against United.
Captain Ben Mee and James Tarkowski are nailed on to start in the heart of defence. Upfront, Ashley Barnes is likely to pair up with Chris Wood again, though Dyche could opt to give Rodriguez a chance from the start this time.
Liverpool games certainly haven’t been easy to call this term, and the same can be said of Burnley. So when they face each other, things become difficult indeed. The champions could burst into life at any moment, and if that happens, Burnley simply won’t have the quality it takes to withstand the storm. On the other hand, they could put in another bleak performance and continue the trend of their title defence chances diminishing.
It feels the game is completely up to them, but there shouldn’t be too many goals.
Verdict: Total goals under 3.5
Best odds: 8/13
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