Liverpool face a must-win Premier League clash at home to Burnley on Thursday night, but are Clarets fans smelling another upset at Anfield?
Sean Dyche’s side were the only team to take points off the Reds at home in the league last season, following a 1-1 draw during the first lockdown.
Burnley have grown accustomed to frustrating Liverpool in fixtures through the years and they will be hoping for the same in midweek.
Jurgen Klopp‘s men haven’t won in their last four league outings, scoring just once in that time, and they desperately need to overcome this testing period, starting against the Clarets.
With the game fast approaching, we spoke to Matt from the No Nay Never podcast (@NoNayNever) to hear about Burnley‘s struggles, where Liverpool have come unstuck and more.
How happy are you with Burnley’s first half of the season?
This season has probably had more disappointing days than good ones.
The lack of transfer activity in the summer window, and departure of four first-team players in June without real replacements, did prepare us for what we could see would be a difficult campaign.
We know that the first-choice starting XI is good enough to keep us up, and with momentum can get us up to around 10th, where we finished last season.
Key injuries to Ben Mee and James Tarkowski in the first few games, as well as a prolonged dip in form for Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, has left us in a relegation battle that in any other season we probably would have climbed away from by this stage.
Is it time for a change from Sean Dyche? Or will him leaving send you back to the Championship?
Whenever the question of Dyche leaving Burnley, be it a minority calling for him to be sacked after a dismal run or a club rumoured to be coming in for him, the question always is: who could do as good a job with the players and finances available?
The truth was always that it would be an almost impossible job to find someone willing to come to a club with so few resources that the fans would accept and feel happy with.
Dyche is probably immune from the sack – even relegation probably wouldn’t be enough for the new owners to let him go and they would most likely give him the opportunity to bring us straight back up.
We are yet to see just how much extra financial support investors ALK can offer Dyche to strengthen the squad, so that injuries to key players don’t disrupt the season quite as much as they currently do (left-back Erik Pieters is playing right midfield, for example).
If he was to leave, we would certainly be in more danger of relegation, as a huge part of what makes this team successful is his leadership and ability to make the squad overachieve time and time again.
Who have been Burnley’s three best players so far this season?
Despite an underwhelming first half of the season, we have still seen some inspiring and high-quality displays from certain members of the squad.
Keeping it to three is actually harder than it first seems.
The return of Mee from injury brought steadiness and solidity to a defence that had been all over the place in the first few matches.
His partnership with Tarkowski is so important to our success and will be hard to replace should the bigger clubs come calling again for Tarky.
Next to them is Charlie Taylor, who is arguably one of the best English left-backs of the last 12 months, yet still gets overlooked by Gareth Southgate.
Taylor’s strong defensive work, coupled with his ability to get forward and link up well with Dwight McNeil, has already put him in the running for our Player of the Year.
His absence over the last couple of matches has been noticeable and we will be hoping he is ready to return on Thursday to look after Mohamed Salah.
As for Liverpool, what do you think has gone wrong recently?
Most winning teams rely on a certain level of consistency in the team – this year, Liverpool have been repeatedly disrupted, particularly around key areas of central defence and goalkeeper.
With instability at the back, the rest of the team in front will have lost some of that confidence they had last season to press forward, when they knew that what they left behind them was secure.
Add to that the self-isolations that have prevented key members of the squad from being available and you have lacked the opportunity to build up momentum and a consistent starting lineup, which was such a key part of the title-winning campaign.
Do you fancy us to retain the Premier League title?
They are certainly in the running and you wouldn’t back against them.
Despite the defeats and dropped points, they still look the most capable of consistently picking up enough points, closely followed by Man City, who will be eager to get revenge for last season.
I can’t see Man United or Tottenham having the consistency to go the distance this year and I also think Leicester will fall short.
It will certainly be entertaining to see how it all plays out, though, particularly when European competitions start up again soon.
Looking ahead to Thursday’s game, who do you fear most for the Reds?
As always, it is hard to look past the front three that have done so much damage to teams over the last two or three years.
It will take a mammoth effort from our defence to contain and restrict them for the full 90 minutes and it could simply be a matter of pace that gives them the edge and best opportunity to strike against us.
Where do you see the key battles taking place?
Hopefully, McNeil will start for us after his short injury layoff, which has also given him a much-needed break.
He came off the bench at half-time against West Ham on Saturday and was easily our best player.
To see him running at Trent Alexander-Arnold with Taylor in support will be intriguing, and probably our best line of attack.
Should Dyche persist with Wood and Barnes up front, the physical battles to win forward balls will also make for entertaining viewing.
Barnes has returned this season after a long injury absence and he is even more of a nuisance than he already was.
He will be looking to wind up defenders, as always, and also win cheap free-kicks to help us move up the pitch and hopefully find the back of the net.
Finally, hit us with your prediction…
Two teams that are struggling to score but have strong defences probably aren’t going to play out a five-goal thriller.
We saw a tight game at Anfield in the summer and fingers crossed this will be the same.
We went to the Emirates before Christmas and frustrated Arsenal, winning 1-0, and we will be looking to do similar again on Thursday.
If we have the right players starting and up our game from Saturday, I could see us getting another point. If your strikers find their shooting boots, however, it could get ugly.
I will go for a hopeful 1-1 draw.