Way back in September, when the new season was but a fledgling enterprise, the Reds welcomed the defending Premier League champions Leicester City to Anfield and smashed four past them. Combined with the 2-1 win over Chelsea that followed, it was part of the reason so many supporters and pundits alike believed that Liverpool could challenge for the title this season. Of course we later discovered that pretty much everyone could score four past Leicester, with the Foxes going on to win just five games before sacking Claudio Ranieri and exacting their revenge on us last month.
So our win over Leicester proved not to be the dawning of a new age for us and rather just the beginning of the worst defence of the title by any side ever, so our win over Arsenal last weekend may go on to be nothing more than the first nail in Arsene Wenger’s coffin. The Gunners were humbled at Anfield, but that was as nothing compared to the 10-2 drubbing they received from Bayern Munich over two legs in the Champions League. We received something of a humbling of our own at the hands of this weekend’s visitors when we lost 2-0 to Burnley in the second game of the season. That match should have been played at our place, but was moved because of the building of the new Main Stand. Now it’s finally come around to playing it, how will things work out?
In one sense things are looking quite good for Jürgen Klopp on the injury front. Apart from long-term absentee Danny Ings and the perpetually injured Daniel Sturridge, the only major doubt for Sunday’s match is Jordan Henderson. In another sense, though, Henderson is crucial to the way Klopp’s Liverpool side plays its football and is especially instrumental against the so-called ‘lesser lights’ of the league. Emre Can was excellent against Arsenal and deserves credit for his performance, but he is something of a microcosm of Liverpool’s season in general – great against the good teams but struggles against the rest.
Too often Can has looked slow and ponderous when he’s been asked to play against teams that like to sit deep and in Burnley we’re going up against one of the best at that. Sean Dyche is known as the Ginger Mourinho, after all. Can and Wijnaldum will likely be asked to reprise their midfield partnership and we’ve got to hope that they are more like the dynamic duo we saw against the Gunners than the dreadful duo who struggled against Leicester. At the back I’d imagine that Dejan Lovren is likely to return after a few weeks out with a knee problem.
In his pre-match press conference the manager announced that Roberto Firmino picked up an injury in the Arsenal game and hasn’t trained all week. A ‘late call’ is likely to be made, but Klopp’s known for taking as few risks as possible. Might we see Origi? My team: Mignolet – Clyne – Matip – Lovren – Milner – Can – Wijnaldum – Lallana – Mané – Coutinho – Origi.
Sean Dyche will be pleased to see Tom Heaton return to his starting XI. The goalkeeper has been a revelation this season, arguably putting himself in a position to win Burnley’s Player Of The Season Award. He missed their 3-2 loss away to Swansea last week with an illness but appears to have recovered in time for this one. Ashley Barnes has been suspended but returns for their trip to Anfield, whilst Joey Barton will also be available despite having been pencilled in for a disciplinary hearing. The FA have decided to postpone said hearing, so the Scouser who no one likes will play as long as he’s over a mild hamstring problem.
Robbie Brady has struggled to settle at Turf Moor since his record-breaking move from Norwich City, though he did score for them against Chelsea so he’s not doing too badly. His teammate Andre Gray, on the other hand, has been in inspired form. The Clarets may have lost at The Liberty Stadium, but Gray scored twice to take his tally for the season up to eight. Liverpool would rather he’d have picked up an injury or suspension for this match but no such luck, he’s fit and he’ll start.
What does form even mean any more? The Reds have won two of their last three, but their one loss came against relegation battling Leicester City. We struggle against poorer teams, but we’ve put fifteen goals past Leicester, Hull and Watford at Anfield so far this season. The bare facts show that we’ve won twice in the league in 2017, but we’re also just four points off the all-conquering and highly praised Tottenham side of Mauricio Pochettino. In short, our form is brilliant or terrible depending on how far back you want to look and what sort of team we’ve been up against.
The same could easily be said for Burnley. The Clarets are yet to win a game away from home this season, having picked up just two points on the road. On the other hand, one of those points came at Old Trafford. They’ve also managed to beat Everton and draw with Chelsea at Turf Moor, so they’re not exactly scared of going up against the big boys. We know that only too well, of course, having lost to them earlier in the season. The reality is that a side that hasn’t won away from home all season shouldn’t have any hope of coming to Anfield and getting anything out of the game. In practice, however, we’ve been helping teams break their bad luck all season long…
One of the key questions surrounding this match is surely whether or not the Liverpool players believe the ‘lower team voodoo’ hype as much as the press and, worse, our supporters do. With that in mind, then, what bets should you be looking at?
Not Many Goals
As well as failing to win away from home all season, Burnley have also failed to register seven times on the road. They have only once scored more than two goals and that was against Swansea last time out. The Reds might well feel that they can get back to winning ways, having put five past Arsenal and Spurs, in our last two home games, but Dyche knows how to set up a defence and it won’t take much for the Anfield crowd to get a little bit itchy and frustrated. The more that happens the more likely it is that our players will begin to get desperate and the Clarets will be able to dig in.
I’m expecting this one to have a similar feel to it to when Sunderland came to town. It took us 75 minutes to break down David Moyes’ men and we only scored our second in injury time at the end of the match. It is 3/1 for Liverpool To Win & The Match To Have Under 2.5 Goals, which doesn’t look outrageous to me. That might be a wee bit too restrictive for you, though, so the 5/4 For Liverpool To Win Both Halves might appeal more as it means we can either struggle but win or batter them and either way your bet is safe. I’ve been wrong on more than one occasion, of course, so Liverpool To Win & There To Be Over 4.5 Goals In The Match @ 17/5 could well be interesting.
As I say, I can envisage this being tight. I’m not sure Burnley’s away record suggests that they’ve got enough to keep a clean sheet, though, so a goalscorer bet is always worth a quick look. It’s been a while now since Adam Lallana has got on the scoresheet, but his performance against Arsenal suggested he’s getting back to his best. Lallana in 2/1 to Score Anytime. Meanwhile Joel Matip is 10/1 to Score Anytime and that could be worth a punt considering his near miss against the Gunners.
Another shift in Liverpool’s defensive unit looks likely with Lovren’s return, so I wouldn’t put it past us to concede. A quick look at the Burnley team shows only one obviously choice and the 4/1 for Gray to Score Anytime will tempt more than a few people to part with a tenner; he did score their second against us at Turf Moor, after all. Perhaps you also noted Robbie Brady’s equaliser against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side a few weeks ago. If so you’ll be interested to see that Brady is 8/1 to Score Anytime.
Out of all of those bets there are two that I think it’s worth having a think about. Liverpool To Win Both Halves @ 5/4 is worth a punt, as that allows it to be a reasonably close game or a hammering and you’re happy either way. I’m also going to opt for the 2/1 available for Lallana to Score Anytime. He’s been one of our best players this season and I’d like to see him get himself a few more goals before it’s over.