Reds Heavy Favourites Against the Clarets
Liverpool face newly promoted Burnley away in the second game of the season, with the Reds looking to build on their performance against Arsenal last week. Red or Dead previews the action from Turf Moor.
Liverpool loanee Jon Flanagan will miss the game, being unable to be fielded against his parent club, Ashley Barnes will again also be absent with a hamstring injury. Burnley will however have a new addition in contention for a spot in the team with their midweek club record signing Steven Defour eligible for selection. The Clarets were unfortunate to be defeated by Swansea 1-0 last week after a late, and in their manager’s words “soft” goal; they will certainly be hungry to make amends for that in front of their home supporters. However, for a club that have been in and out of the Premier League three times in the last seven years, the board have arguably not made the signings that will keep them up. Up until Defour’s transfer this week, Jon Flanagan remained their only major signing. This is a point of great frustration for Burnley supporters as the club do have money to spend after the new, lucrative TV rights deal and the considerable compensation fee from Danny Ings’ free transfer to Liverpool. Whether Sean Dyche can inspire his men to fight their way out of the ‘yo-yo club’ name tag remains to be seen.
Burnley’s lineup should see a unchanged XI face Liverpool on the weekend. In goal Tom Heaton will of course keep his place, a very good ‘keeper, Heaton was part of the ill-fated England squad for the 2016 European Championship although he didn’t play a game. Burnley’s defence is criminally underrated, without having a plethora of big-name stars they always manage to defend well, often against “bigger” opposition. Ben Mee is the player who stands out after an outstanding season last campaign. Michael Keane, Matthew Lowton and Stephen Ward can all more than hold their own though, meaning that the experience of Lowton and Ward could make finding game time for a returning Flanagan difficult throughout the season. Having lost Joey Barton to Rangers, Burnley’s midfield is less experienced and resolute than last year, a point Liverpool will hope to exploit. The seasoned pair of Dean Marney and David Jones are unquestionably their strongest central duo, and will again be flanked by George Boyd and Scott Arfield. Up front, without Barnes, Sam Vokes will retain his spot next to Andre Gray. As previously stated, Flanagan will watch from the stands, whilst Defour is unlikely to start the game, but expect to see him feature at some point.
Loris Karius and Sheyi Ojo are all still some time away from returning to team training, let being involved on match day. Mamadou Sakho, Joe Gomez and Lucas Leiva have started individual training, but this week’s game will likely come too soon for them to feature. However the likes of Joel Matip, Daniel Sturridge, Marko Grujic and James Milner could all appear against Burnley after being given the green light by Jurgen Klopp. The only new concern was the devastating news that new winger Sadio Mane had dislocated his shoulder after a collision in training. It has since been reported that after scans the injury is not nearly as severe as previously thought, though there is apparently some muscle damage. In his pre-game conference Klopp seemed unconcerned about this and gave the impression that Mane will be back sooner rather than later, he will however almost certainly miss the trip to Turf Moor.
Liverpool will likely adopt their more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation against Burnley with the likely exclusion of Mane. This will see the return of Emre Can, pushing Adam Lallana out wide. Mignolet will retain his place in goal with Karius not due to return until the start of October from a broken hand. The defensive line should be roughly the same with the only difference being the possibility of Milner replacing a highly-criticised Alberto Moreno after an erratic performance against Arsenal. The midfield duo will consist of captain Jordan Henderson alongside Can as stated above. Divock Origi could lead the line supported by Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho fresh off his man of the match display against Arsenal. The likes of Matip and Sturridge will be unlikely to start as they need time to regain fitness but could feature off the bench along with Grujic. Milner is exempt from this assessment however due to his exemplary fitness and conditioning. Georginio Wijnaldum will consider himself unlucky to be omitted from the starting lineup after a positive display on debut, expect to see him feature at some point though.
Burnley, despite being a considerably “weaker” side than some of those that Liverpool will face in the coming weeks, are not to be underestimated. They are a well-drilled side with an intelligent and respected manager in Sean Dyche, and will have no doubt done their homework on Liverpool, especially their frailties at the back and from set-pieces. In particular they will look to utilise the considerable pace and talent of Andre Gray, a young striker who lit-up the Championship last season with 25 goals; he could cause similar problems to Theo Walcott last week. The key battle to keep an eye on will be Gray vs Klavan and Milner, it will be a true test to see how effectively the defenders can deal with a man with considerably more pace than either of them.
Liverpool are on a high after their win at the Emirates, and will look to continue their goal-scoring form at Burnley. Utilising the 4-2-3-1 formation, the Reds will look to overload Burnley’s back four with skillful dribbling and passing to draw fouls and create space. Mane’s absence will be a loss due to the chances he creates on the back of his direct-running and speed, but Origi is also quite fast as well as being incredibly strong, a real all-around talent. Expect to see the likes of Firmino and Coutinho linking up to try and release Origi into space, Can will also drive up from midfield to support these attacks. The key battle to watch here will be Origi vs Mee, whilst Mee had a good season in the championship, it will be a true test of his talents when he comes up against the omnipotent Belgian.
I expect Liverpool to be able to fairly comfortably control this game, although it will require a much improved performance from the midfield from last week, in particular Henderson must be better. Having said that Liverpool should win, but Burnley will not roll over. I’m predicting a 2-0 win for Liverpool, with both goals coming from Divock Origi, a clean sheet and a win being the most important factors.
Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 19/08/2016.