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Why Burnley’s returning “12th man” shouldn’t ruin Liverpool’s top-4 hopes

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There will be 3,500 fans back inside Turf Moor on Wednesday night, as Burnley look to ruin Liverpool‘s hopes of a top-four finish.

The Reds won in unforgettable fashion at the weekend, with Alisson‘s last-gasp winner sealing a priceless 2-1 victory at West Brom.

There is no time to breathe in this relentless Champions League battle, however, with Burnley now awaiting, looking to reproduce their 1-0 win at Anfield back in January.

Sean Dyche continues to impress in charge at Turf Moor, and if Liverpool aren’t switched on, they could come unstuck against awkward opponents.

Ahead of the game, we spoke to Matt from the No Nay Never Podcast (@NoNayNever) to get the lowdown on Burnley‘s season, the return of supporters and much more.

 

How would you assess Burnley’s season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 21, 2021: Liverpool's first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders and Burnley's James Tarkowski clash at half-time during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We’ve truly had the full spectrum of emotions this season.

Losing to teams who we would expect to be taking points off because of low-energy performances, brief defensive collapses or strikers who couldn’t buy a goal at times has been balanced by massive wins at Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton.

Meanwhile, magnificent teams displays at Crystal Palace, Wolves and Fulham secured safety.

Throw into that a takeover saga that ran on from the start of the season until the New Year and it’s been quite a campaign.

We’ve all missed being able to dissect all this in person on the terraces each week.

 

Are you still fully behind Sean Dyche?

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 31, 2019: Burnley's manager Sean Dyche reacts during the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Liverpool FC at Turf Moor. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Absolutely. I think the tension last summer between him and the board showed many fans who it was that was holding us back in the transfer market.

While Dyche’s stubbornness to change a side that is failing to perform can be frustrating to watch, when you stand back and look at the bigger picture of a whole season, or a few seasons, you’d be hard pushed to find someone who still thought he should move on and that we could find someone who could do better with what we have.

His obvious disinterest in cup runs is really starting to grate, though!

 

Who have been Burnley’s top three players in 2020/21?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 21, 2021: Burnley's goalkeeper Nick Pope during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. Burnley won 1-0 ending Liverpool’s run of 68 games unbeaten at home. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There have been standout performances all over the park at different times this season, but our one constant, barring a couple of games out injured, has been Nick Pope in goal.

He has been immense at times, consistently good at his job and quite rightly giving Gareth Southgate a selection headache ahead of the Euros.

Chris Wood went through quite a barren spell earlier in the season, but once he starts scoring he usually keeps going, and we’ve seen that again as he has hit over 10 goals for the fourth season running.

He is one of only six Premier League attackers to manage this, so any critics of his can’t argue that that isn’t a great return for just £15 million.

Dwight McNeil has again been fantastic on occasions this season – the brief injury break partway through seemed to give him the chance to reset and he came back better for it.

 

Have any individuals been poor?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 21, 2021: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) and Burnley's Ashley Barnes during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. Burnley won 1-0 ending Liverpool’s run of 68 games unbeaten at home. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As I said earlier, we have seen some poor team performances, particularly in the first five or six games and in spells against Fulham, West Brom and Brighton in February, when we had a golden chance to pull clear of the relegation battle.

Our strikers have had difficult spells when they struggled to find the net, with Jay Rodriguez and Ashley Barnes both having seasons to forget overall.

Hopefully, the squad as a whole will come back stronger after a proper break and pre-season this time around.

 

Switching our attention to Liverpool, why do you think this season has been a struggle?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk walks off injured during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Multiple key injuries early on properly derailed Liverpool‘s title defence.

They clearly struggled to cope with it psychologically, as we saw with the incredible run of poor home form which started with our historic win on that night in January.

 

Do you think they will secure a top-four finish?

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson headed home Liverpool’s stoppage-time winner at West Brom (Rui Vieira/PA)

After Sunday’s last-minute drama, they have put themselves in a very strong position to take a spot from Leicester or Chelsea.

Liverpool arguably have the easier run-in on paper, with ourselves and Palace both safe, coupled with the fact that Leicester and Chelsea have to face each other and so can’t both get six points from their last two games.

The Foxes also have to play Tottenham on the final day, who will be fighting for the best Europa League place to avoid early qualifying rounds.

With the title and relegation sewn up, all eyes will be on this battle for the Champions League.

 

Looking ahead to Wednesday’s game, who scares you most for Liverpool?

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 16, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the first equalising goal during the FA Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion FC and Liverpool FC at The Hawthorns. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is always hard to look past your front three, even though they’ve found things difficult this year. Mo Salah is still up there for the Golden Boot.

Hitting us on the break when we don’t have our shape and two banks of four behind the ball will be the Reds’ best chance of securing a win.

On top of that, some quality delivery from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson could also unpick our defence, particularly as we are likely to be without Pope in goal.

 

Where will the key battles take place at Turf Moor?

Our strikers will be keen to test your less experienced centre-back pairing, with plenty of pressing and a good physical battle.

McNeil had Trent tied up in knots at times at Anfield, so that will also be intriguing to watch again, while our midfield terriers of Ashley Westwood and Josh Brownhill will keep your midfield trio busy all night…hopefully!

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 21, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané (L) and Burnley's Robbie Brady during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. Burnley won 1-0 ending Liverpool’s run of 68 games unbeaten at home. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The reality of this fixture is that Burnley are safe and have a reputation for letting the intensity drop in the final games of a season, while Liverpool know that six points will see them qualify for the Champions League.

The only unknown quantity is that there will be 3,500 Clarets fans on the Turf for the first time in 15 months and they will be wanting to make it sound like a full house and show their team how much they missed supporting them in person, and thank them for managing to get over the line in this difficult season.

This may prove to be the 12th man that Burnley need to cause an upset, but I think Liverpool will be too strong.

I think we could see another tight game, with the Reds sealing the win late on. I’ll say 3-1.


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