Liverpool will look to follow up an impressive performance at home to Arsenal last Saturday with victory over Burnley on Sunday, in one of only four Premier League games this weekend, as the FA Cup quarter-finals take centre stage.
Burnley, who were the first team to beat Liverpool this season back in August, have struggled away from home all season, but Liverpool’s tendency to underperform against lesser sides in 2017 arguably makes the game a bigger fixture than it should be.
The conversations taking place outside Anfield last Saturday evening all centred around how Liverpool would inevitably drop points this weekend after such a promising result last: that cannot be the case very often for a team with aspirations of finishing at least fourth.
Liverpool beat the likes of Watford and Stoke 6-1 and 4-1 respectively at home in 2016, but have only beaten Tottenham and Arsenal at Anfield since the beginning of January. Nothing but a win would be enough in this situation, and whilst Burnley are a difficult opponent, the home team should have far too much quality.
With no other rivals for the Champions League places playing this weekend due to postponements for the FA Cup ties, this is a golden opportunity to make some ground for the Reds. Other teams will have games in hand, but it is always preferable to have points on the board rather than games in hand.
“People say I don’t have a plan B… [but] we have to cover specific spaces and make the right decisions,” Jurgen Klopp used to his press conference today to explain.
“Before Arsenal, the mood was optimistic. In this moment, I’m not sure that we will win against Burnley, but I’m quite optimistic”.
Klopp also confirmed that Daniel Sturridge is out of the game on Sunday – it is questionable whether he will ever start for Liverpool again, with a summer departure certainly in contention – whilst captain Jordan Henderson is also going to be missing again.
James Milner, who will be captain in the absence of Henderson, will play his 600th Premier League game on Sunday. Jurgen Klopp reserved special praise for that achievement.
“He has adapted to a lot of positions in his life – it’s possible for a player like Milly. 600 is quite a number; he doesn’t look like he’s played 600”.
Dejan Lovren should return, but Roberto Firmino is a doubt having not trained this week. The Brazilian is likely to be replaced by Divock Origi if there is any doubt at all over his fitness, as Liverpool’s coaching team usually take no risks in such situations.
With or without their central forward player, Liverpool must prove that they are capable of beating the lesser teams as well as those at the top. If nothing else, it would put to bed the questions being asked of them, and provide confidence for the run-in.
There are more of the lesser sides to come at Anfield, and Liverpool must banish any doubt that they can beat them.
This game is by no means a formality, but Liverpool must find a way to win and avenge the defeat they suffered earlier in the campaign if they are to finish where they want to come the end of May.
WHEN DOES THE GAME KICK OFF?
The match starts at 16:00 GMT and is live on Sky Sports 1.
WHO IS THE REFEREE?
Craig Pawson – Pawson has become one of the better officials in the Premier League despite limited experience, and was last at Anfield for the FA Cup defeat to Wolves.
In the league, he has already been at Anfield for two games this season, with considerably more success for the home side than in the cup. First was the 4-1 win over Champions Leicester, before the 1-0 victory over Manchester City on New Year’s Eve.
Pawson has also taken charge of two of Burnley’s fixtures so far, with mixed results for the Clarets. The 0-1 loss at home to Arsenal in October was the first, before the 1-0 win over Middlesbrough, also at Turf Moor, on Boxing Day.
Burnley have only picked up three points away from home all season, in draws with Manchester United, Sunderland and Hull City. They are yet to win away from Turf Moor in the league, despite sitting in twelfth place.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Can, Lallana, Wijnaldum; Mane, Origi, Coutinho
Opposition: Robinson; Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward; Boyd, Barton, Westwood, Brady; Gray, Vokes
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