Burnley 0-1 Liverpool
Turf Moor, Premier League
Sunday 13 February, 2022
Goals: Fabinho 40′
Wild depth for Klopp to manage
It’s such an unusual situation to be in, but Liverpool’s squad depth is absurd right now – because everybody is fit.
The manager has genuinely huge calls to make in several positions every match as it stands, because there are actual starting-calibre players fit and waiting to come into the team – and there just isn’t room for them all.
It might not last too long, injuries being what they are, but it’s a real dilemma for Klopp to solve and savour – not just from a tactical perspective, but with his man-management, keeping them all happy, ready to play when needed and convinced they have a big role to play in the coming weeks and months.
AFCON trio return
Added to them was Naby Keita, back in the line-up in midfield and almost back on the scoresheet early on, a driven strike well saved by the keeper among a good overall half for the No8.
Salah, well, his weekly occurrence happened – he was fouled in the box and didn’t get a pen – and he was the big threat in the second half, though we’ve yet to see him truly catch fire yet.
But Mane’s return was maybe most intriguing given Jota and Diaz both can play left and both have won headlines recently. He almost claimed a couple of assists and nearly scored in the first half too.
Few players get to be a standout at Turf Moor and it was the case again today, but certainly nobody was poor and pushed the case for a positional rival to get the start next time – competition for places should make this the case on a regular basis.
Could this game be any more Burnley?
Cold. Raining. Grey. Hurricane-force winds. Opening goal off a set-piece.
Honestly, if the stereotypical match report was to be written about a Burnley game, every single one of these would be right at the top of the list.
It was an absolute grind at times, not made any easier by the usual dismal refereeing decisions for constant niggly fouls, with Liverpool having to fight for space and repel powerful opponents and deliveries with frequency.
Counter-attacking chances were the order of the second half for the most part, though our build-up play improved when Burnley failed to find a way through early on and were eventually forced backwards.
When it comes to Burnley away, most of the time all you can hope to do is get out with three points and no injuries – mission accomplished.
Fabinho, in both halves of the pitch
Who had our Brazilian defensive midfielder making the late charge for Golden Boot then?!
OK, he might not quite get to Salah levels of celebrations, but he has been a vital and most-appreciated additional source of goals over winter.
His scrambled, scruffy finish here at the second attempt was his sixth of the season, his fifth in 2022 – but the great positive is that it never comes at the expense of his elite-level defensive work.
Fabinho made two really important interventions in his own penalty box, including a blocked cross after the Clarets cut through and had an otherwise clear chance down the left in the second half.
Passing, ball-winning, positional play and stopping those second balls being won – he’s perfect at the lot and our match-winner once again.
Off to Italy and then to rotate?
Hard to imagine anything other than a full-strength Liverpool side next time out, as we head to Inter Milan for a Champions League last-16 first-leg tie on Wednesday.
Thiago might be among those to come into the side for that and Jurgen Klopp might have one or two other decisions to make too – but it certainly won’t be about rotation for that game as we’ll want to set the platform to progress.
Beyond that, there might well be more rotation to come.
Norwich at home might offer the chance to make changes, and so too a rearranged midweek clash with Leeds which lands just four days before another must-win encounter: our League Cup final at Wembley against Chelsea in a fortnight.
A packed schedule, the chance for a trophy and the pursuit of another – it’s all systems go around Anfield and this was every bit as vital a victory.