Liverpool head to Turf Moor this weekend to face an extremely underrated Burnley side. The Reds may be top of the league, but they will need to produce another improved performance, building upon their wins against Norwich City, Southampton and Arsenal, to claim the three points against Sean Dyche’s side.
Tough at Turf Moor
Both Liverpool and Manchester City struggled in their victories at Turf Moor last season. Liverpool came from behind to secure a 3-1 win, while City needed a narrow 1-0 win from a Sergio Agüero effort that barely crossed the line. Fine margins decide games and titles, as Liverpool found to their cost against City in January.
Burnley have enjoyed an encouraging start to the season, beginning with a brilliant 3-0 victory over Southampton, a narrow defeat to Arsenal – the only side Dyche has failed to take points against as a Premier League manager – at the Emirates before Wolves snatched an undeserved point to prevent the Clarets from claiming another impressive victory at Molineux.
Ashley Barnes is in clinical form at the moment in attack for Burnley, a menacing presence even for the likes of Joël Matip and newly crowned UEFA Men's Player of the Year Virgil van Djik. Goalkeeper Nick Pope has been revitalised to the extent that he has been recalled to the England squad by Gareth Southgate, while Ben Mee and James Tarkowski continue to provide excellent protection at the back.
Burnley are organised, well-structured and every single player knows their exact role in the side. The clarity of action provided by Dyche allows Burnley to express their identity to the greatest effect possible – an identity underappreciated compared with the attractive sides in the league, but equally as effective when Burnley are at their best.
Despite overachieving two seasons ago, their top seven finish in the season before last illustrates what Burnley are truly capable of when they operate to their maximum on a consistent basis.
Turf Moor has never been an easy place to go since Burnley were promoted back to the Premier League, and has replaced Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium as the ground where you know any victory achieved will have been hard-fought and well-deserved.
Familiar line-up expected for the Reds
Given Liverpool have had exactly a week to rest and prepare since the home win against Arsenal, Jürgen Klopp’s line-up will contain few changes.
Matip was excellent against Arsenal and deserves to retain his place alongside van Dijk at the expense of Joe Gomez, who will also probably miss out to Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back, the latter’s creativity going forward vital in a game Liverpool will expect to dominate.
Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson will most likely be chosen ahead of James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain unless there are injury concerns, and the automatics – the front three, Fabinho, Andy Robertson, van Dijk and stand-in goalkeeper Adrián – will start again.
Liverpool undoubtedly have the quality to prevail – their overall record at Turf Moor has been good in recent years. The Reds suffered a 2-0 defeat at the start of the 2016-17 season, following the rollercoaster 4-3 win away to Arsenal, but in 2017-18 beat the Clarets 2-1 thanks to a last-minute winner by Ragnar Klavan, followed by their 3-1 success last season.
A third consecutive victory would be greatly welcomed, ensuring Liverpool would retain top spot in the Premier League table heading into the international break.
Win, and keep winning, to win the title
Manchester City were unfortunate to drop points at home to Tottenham Hotspur, but drop points they did and Liverpool already have an early advantage in what looks surely to be a two-horse title race.
Whilst neither side can win every game, the importance of winning early and staying ahead cannot be stated enough for Liverpool. Moreover, holding onto their 100% record before the Champions League and League Cup midweek games kick in would be an added boost for the long campaign ahead – which the Reds will hope will be on multiple fronts.
However, Klopp’s first priority is to ensure the first month of the season ends with Liverpool in the position they hope to occupy at the end of the final month of the season.