Burnley is in 19th place in the table, has won just one of their last eleven Premier League matches but it would still be extremely foolish by Liverpool to underestimate tonight´s opponents. After all, Burnley has managed several fine results versus top teams this season.
In recent times Liverpool has beaten top four rivals West Ham, Tottenham and Southampton and title chasers Manchester City. With this in mind Liverpool players might think that relegation strugglers Burnley at Anfield tonight will be a walk in the park. Well, if that is so they better wise up.
The visitors has often enough been inferior in their matches and so far they have only picked up 22 points in 27 games. They have managed just one away win and can only claim one win in the last eleven league fixtures and that was against fellow relegation candidate Queens Park Rangers.
But sometimes Burnley surprises and performs quite well. Title chasing teams Chelsea and Manchester City just managed draws at home versus the Clarets and at Turf Moor Burnley held Manchester United and downed Southampton. When on song, even if seldom, Burnley can be a handful. Liverpool experienced just that on Boxing Day when we won 1-0 but was indeed lucky as Burnley dominated the game and created more chances.
Liverpool is of course the better team and should win comprehensively and the biggest risk of failure tonight is if we indulge in complacency. A couple of months that was in fact a huge risk but lately Liverpool has been 100 percent focussed regardless of opposition. I trust the same will happen again.
The excellent form of late is also a factor in Liverpool´s favour. We can boast eleven league games on the trot without defeat and the last loss came in mid-December. Since then we have won eight and drawn three. Even so, another victory is necessary now. The Reds can´t afford to drop points against bottom half teams if the top four pursuit is to be maintained. There is at least five teams waiting for rivals to slip up so we must make sure it isn´t us.
As I already written it could prove to be a tricky game tonight. Burnley will fight for their lives as they need points to keep up with their adversaries at the bottom. The Clarets has proved that they can shut up shop against top teams and pick up unexpected points.
Liverpool could find it more difficult to score against them than versus Southampton, Manchester City and Tottenham. These teams assumed they could beat Liverpool by dominating the match and attack. Burnley have no such notions. They will most certainly clam up, put ten men behind the ball and try to hit us on the break. Liverpool must be aware defensively and have patience in attack and above all, find more telling final balls through the Burnley back four (five?). If we can achieve all that then the goals will stack up and the score end up being a convincing one.
This is the eleven Reds I would put my faith in to do the job (in a 3-4-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Dejan Lovren. CB: Martin Skrtel. LB: Mamadou Sakho. RWB: Emre Can. DM: Joe Allen. CM: Jordan Henderson. LWB: Alberto Moreno. RF: Adam Lallana. CF: Raheem Sterling. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
I´d place Can at right wingback because I think Dejan Lovren can fill a back three spot now and Can is a better player than RWB challengers Lazar Markovic and Javier Manquillo. At RWB Can brings power, strength and skill to the position and the midfield. If Sakho can´t play then Can must play in the back three and Markovic come in at RWB. In central midfield Joe Allen is showing more and more what he can do and should be selected. In the central striker role Sterling is the better choice than Daniel Sturridge right now. Sturridge is not fully fit yet and must be brought back to the fore with care.
Last night Southampton won and leapfrogged us in the table. Time for us to pay them the same compliment in a few hours when:
We Go Again.