By Padraig O’Callaghan – @AGameOfTwoHalfz
Liverpool travel north to face a Burnley team sitting in 19th place in the league and try to continue their winning streak in the league which stretches back three games.
Liverpool go into this game on the back of a sensational Merseyside Derby victory thanks to a very late goal from forgotten man Divock Origi. Having kept their ninth clean sheet in the league it also means Liverpool have the best defence in Europe since the start of the year, outright.
Things don’t look as bright at Turf Moor however, Burnley look a completely different prospect then the team that qualified for the Europa League last season. Sean Dyche has seen his side plummet from seventh to 19th in just under half a season.
As stated before, Burnley lie second bottom in the league. Having gone from having the best defence in the league outside the top six, they now have the second worst defence conceding 29 goals, it took them 32 games to concede the same amount last season.
In attack, they are struggling to score goals too, finding the back of the net only 13 times, four of which came in a 4-0 win against Bournemouth.
In their last five games, they’ve only managed to pick up a single point, against Leicester City in an extremely emotional match at the King Power. Losses against Crystal Palace, Newcastle, West Ham and Chelsea have mounted the pressure on Sean Dyche to get his side perform to a higher standard.
In their next five they play four of the top six – failing to pick up any more than seven points should see the man labelled the “Ginger Mourinho” after his heroics last season sacked and rightfully so.
Liverpool had a major confidence booster on Sunday, a 96th minute winner against Everton sent Anfield into delirium. I’ve never seen scenes like that at Anfield in a long time, a goal that ensure bragging rights for the reds half of Liverpool.
Keeping us in contention for that exclusive Premier League trophy, scored by Divock Origi who saw his career ruined by injury in the same fixture two years ago.
Prior to that game, Liverpool recorded consecutive victories against Fulham and Watford. It now means Liverpool have scored six without reply in their last three games.
In those three games however, our attacking play has been very frustrating, Firmino, Mane and Salah are nowhere near their best, yet Liverpool have scored one goal less than at the same time last season. Fabinho was excellent in the Derby while Naby Keita made an ineffective yet noticeable impact.
Sean Dyche has utilised a 4-4-1-1 formation when up against the bigger sides of the Premier League this season. By using this formation, it allows Burnley to sit deep with two banks of four – it could become a bank of four behind another five if the most forward midfielder sits back.
It also allows for quick counter attacking transitions with the two wide midfielders having the option to join the attack, though Burnley have not done a whole lot of attacking this season.
Joe Hart will remain in goal but is not meeting the standards set by Nick Pope last season.
Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and Charlie Taylor have been main stays in defence and should start the match
Robbie Brady is a doubt for the game after picking up an ankle injury in Burnley’s 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday. This would make way for Aaron Lennon to join Steven Defour, Jack Cork and Johann Berg Gudmundsson in midfield. Hendrick will support Sam Vokes in attack.
Last season, Jurgen Klopp rotated heavily throughout the Christmas period allowing Liverpool to go unbeaten through the season’s busiest month. I would expect Alberto Moreno, Joel Matip, Adam Lallana (if fit) and even Divock Origi to play a large number of minutes.
Since Burnley are in dire straits at the moment, Jurgen Klopp should make quite a few changes with the weekend clash against a dangerous Bournemouth side in mind.
Divock Origi should lead the line after having an impressive cameo even if he did manage to hit the crossbar from a yard out, what he did seven minutes later was much more significant though.
The Belgian in theory should replace Roberto Firmino but with Sadio Mané a major doubt, he could well start on the wing. Firmino and Xherdan Shaqiri should complete the forward midfield three with Daniel Sturridge leading the line. Fabinho and Henderson should start as the holding midfield two giving Gini Wijnaldum a well-deserved rest.
Alberto Moreno, Virgil van Dijk, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold should complete the outfield 10 with Alisson starting in goal once again.
Key talking points
Divock’s Revival? – When the fifth official held up the substitution board in the 84th minute in the Merseyside derby, no one was expecting to see the number 27 flash up in green. Many fans vented their frustration as to why the forgotten Belgian was opted to play the final five minutes plus extra time, even more so when both Salah and Firmino both got taken off.
Origi made a bright start to his first league appearance in over 15 months, beating Yerry Mina for pace and winning a corner, from the resulting corner he hit the woodwork from a yard out. Not to be deterred by this miss, he kept going.
As the timer clocked past 95 minutes, following a headed clearance, van Dijk sliced a volley towards goal, instinctively Origi moved forward into space, Pickford dropped the resulting volley and the Belgian was there to head it home and send the Kop into dreamland. His name was sung around Anfield as a new hero was embedded into Derby Day folklore.
The Belgium showed a lot of promise in his short cameo and deserves another chance, He has the know how to play as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1, in the run to the final in the Europa League. He also has the capabilities for playing on the wing. With a hectic fixture list over the coming weeks, Origi certainly deserves a handful of appearance to put him higher in the pecking order.
Fabinho to continue his form – Fabinho was Liverpool’s best player in the first half against Everton and showed why he is so much better than Jordan Henderson. Jordan Henderson was a fine midfielder for two years between 2013 and 2015. Fans point to his red card against Man City as the reason we lost the title.
If that version of Henderson was playing for Klopp right now, he would be regarded as one of the higher rated midfielders in the country. Sadly however, injuries have limited his ability off the ball and he just doesn’t have the pace to play in this side.
Fabinho has started four games for Liverpool and has impressed in three of those outings. For a defensive midfielder he has everything you want and showed all his attributes in another staring performance. He won the ball back more than other player, was aerially dominant, put himself around the pitch and most importantly moved the ball quickly and effectively.
When he received the ball, he was often one step ahead and moved the ball on with one touch, he linked up well with players around him, competing one-twos numerous times throughout which not only disrupted Everton’s shape put Liverpool on the front foot. Since the Brazilian has started to show true form, I don’t see him leaving the starting Xi anytime soon.
Last five matches
Premier League 01/01/2018 – Burnley 1-2 Liverpool
Premier League 16/09/2017 – Liverpool 1-1 Burnley
Premier League 12/03/2017 – Liverpool 2-1 Burnley
Premier League 20/08/2016 – Burnley 2-0 Liverpool
Premier League 04/03/2015 – Liverpool 2-0 Burnley
Nothing less than a comfortable Liverpool victory should be expected from this game. Even if Jurgen Klopp makes a handful of changes we should still have the quality on the pitch to beat a team placed in 19th.
Sean Dyche and his side have not clicked at all and look certain for relegation even after one third of the season being played. Against Crystal Palace they only managed four attempts on goal, the opposition managed 29.
Burnley shouldn’t prove a threat in attack, their main source of attack at the weekend was thumping the ball up the pitch. With both Lovren and Van Dijk in defence you aren’t going to win much in the air.
Liverpool face much bigger test in just over a week, playing a decisive Champions League game against Napoli and in the league against arch rival Manchester United. To have a better chance of achieving the best outcome, we need to win our games between now and then.
A win against Burnley would see them keep up with Man City who face Watford away this evening. The longer stay in touch, the bigger the chance we have of sneaking past them into first place.
I’m going for a quite comfortable 3-0 win, whenever Origi scores he seems to score a couple in consecutive games so he will find himself on the score sheet alongside Shaqiri and Firmino.
Final Score: Burnley 0-3 Liverpool (Origi, Shaqiri, Firmino)