Ah yes, that feeling’s back.
Following the elation Liverpool provided its fans at Anfield against a top-four rival in Arsenal, the mood should be all smiles and utter confidence. So why the sense of trepidation, the caution, and the preparation for disappointment at home to a newly promoted side?
Well, it’s probably to do with the fact that Liverpool managed to lose to a Swansea team that hadn’t won a game since Gangnam Style was in fashion, a Hull City side that hadn’t scored since 1987, and a Leicester team that’d just sacked the man who brought them a Premier League title only months prior.
So, the trepidation’s fair enough then. The only thing Liverpool really do have in their favour is that they won’t be up against a team with a new manager – something which seems to be an Achilles heel in recent times. With the successes of Silva, Clement and Shakespeare, Burnley would be justified to sack Sean Dyche, hire someone out of the blue on a one game contract, and bring Dyche back in once they’ve nabbed the three points from Anfield.
If they do, they’ll have done the double against Jürgen’s Reds; which only reinforces that feeling of cautiousness in this consistently inconsistent season. On the flipside, Burnley haven’t won a game since they beat Leicester City on the 1st February, and have the worst away record in the Premier League. If Liverpool are to keep that trend up, here are the battles they’ll have to win.
Joel Matip vs. Andre Gray
Burnley had never scored a Premier League goal against Liverpool.
That was, until Andre Gray wreaked havoc on a hapless Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan, who were well and truly beaten on Matchday #2 – what seems like an eternity ago.
If Jürgen’s plea for consistency is to be heeded, they’ll not only have to stop counter attacks before they reach Simon Mignolet’s box; but Joel Matip will have to command a stable, solid defence resolved of their tendency to panic in a two vs. two situation. They’ll also have to stop Burnley from scoring early – as Sam Vokes did in the reverse fixture in the 2nd minute at Turf Moor.
Andre Gray will most definitely be Burnley’s attacking threat – he’s their leading goalscorer with eight goals, two of which came against Swansea last weekend in the gripping 3-2 loss at the Liberty Stadium. Gray is lethal when afforded space on the counter-attack, and Joel Matip needs to be the one who prevents him from getting that space.
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