December 26, 2014; 15:00 GMT
Liverpool travel to Burnley on Boxing Day. Last season’s Premier League runners up would be hoping to pick up three points and kickstart their season by stringing together wins over the festive period. The hosts will also look at some encouraging recent performances and hope that they can salvage a result at home against a side that has been very vulnerable in hopes of getting out of the relegation zone.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Burnley are sitting 18th in the table Premier League table and fans wouldn’t have been hoping to be in the relegation zone about half-way through the first season, after a hard earned promotion. Dyche has a crisis in front of goal, much like his opponents. His side goes into this game at the back of a 2-1 loss to Spurs. Before that, the Turf Moor outfit earned a creditable win against Southampton so it isn’t like the home team doesn’t have anything to take confidence from. There are signs of progress, but the club will have to start turning creditable draws, and even the losses such as the one against Tottenham, where they played superbly, into wins if they want to remain in the first division.
Sam Vokes could return to the Burnley squad for the first time since March and the man is very much missed right now. The Wales international stepped up his recovery from cruciate knee ligament damage and scored twice for the development squad on Monday. Dyche has strictly said he doesn’t want to rush the player and hence we might find him on the bench against Liverpool.The partnership between him and Danny Ings was one of the highlights of the Championship last season, and even though Ashley Barnes scored a worldly goal against Spurs, Vokes return is desperately needed. Burnley have only scored 12 goals in 17 matches so far, and they absolutely can’t keep this goalscoring rate going.
Michael Duff and Stephen Ward will continue to be on the sidelines while Matt Taylor might make his way back and be in the squad for this crucial game.
There is no better time than now for Burnley to face Liverpool (except maybe a week ago). The Reds, despite recent encouraging performances, are not in a comfortable situation. They’ve been knocked out of the Champions League prematurely, they already have more defeats in less than half a season than they did the whole of last, and they don’t have a natural goalscorer. After the ecstasy of last season, it is disappointment and woe for the Merseysiders. Burnley should look to exploit this and bag crucial three points at home and move out of the relegation zone. The visitors have a shocking defence which concedes very cheap goals. The home side should definitely look at getting fouled around the box and attack through corners as Liverpool know no way of defending set pieces and Against Arsenal, they let in Mathieu Debuchy score in the sloppiest of fashions in the extra time of the first half, and that goal was so crucial in the Gunners taking a point home which they didn’t deserve for such a weak performance. Barnes and Ings have to continuously ask questions from Liverpool’s deputy goalkeeper and the likes of Boyd, Marney, Arfield and Jones need to link up the defence and the attack and boss the midfield at home. Dyche should also appoint one player to shut Steven Gerrard off. Gerrard’s best days are behind him, no doubt, but he is the one who launches attacks from the middle and gets the ball moving forward in a lot of instances. Stopping him from doing so will definitely frustrate Liverpool. Summing up, Burnley should definitely NOT be on a defensive mode and attack consistently as three points against their opponents remains a good possibility.
Even though the Reds are badly struggling and are 10th in the points table, something no one would have anticipated at the beginning of the season, recent performances which include a 3-0 loss against Manchester United, the win in the League Cup at Bournemouth and a well-deserved draw against Arsenal would have certainly helped the confidence and self-belief, albeit only in the short term. Two wins from their last nine matches isn’t a form to boast of certainly. Brendan Rodgers will be looking for his first Boxing Day win as Liverpool manager. The Reds need to win this game as it will give them confidence for the other winnable fixtures coming thick and fast. Points is what is needed right now as Rodgers and co. look to get out of an embarrassing mid-table position.
The Reds will be without Glen Johnson, Joe Allen, Jon Flanagan, Dejan Lovren, Daniel Sturridge and Fabio Borini (what in God’s name was that cameo?). Mario Balotelli is declared fit to be in the squad for the clash.
Brendan Rodgers has recently started playing the 3-4-2-1 formation with Raheem Sterling acting as the false nine, and it is beginning to pay dividends. The Anfield outfit has begun to create chances, and good ones at that, there seems to be fluidity in attacks and passes and the quick transitions which were being missed so much after last season, are also happening. The only thing that is hurting Liverpool right now is the lack of a natural goalscorer and a sloppy defence. Daniel Sturridge is supposed to come back in early January so if the Reds can get a string of victories before that, it would put them in a good position with the English striker coming in at a time where there would be confidence in the Liverpool camp.
Rodgers would probably start the same team that started against Bournemouth and Arsenal. Lazar Markovic, who has finally started looking like someone Liverpool spent 20 million pounds on, will continue to play as left wingback and Henderson will be on the opposite flank. Mamadou Sakho should make his second straight league start and Brad Jones is expected to be in goal for the Reds. Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, who have also looked impressive of late, will continue with Sterling in attack. There is however a possibility that Balotelli starts in place of Sterling as the Northern Irishman has hinted at resting the European Golden Boy at some point in the busy run of fixtures.
Predicted Line-up (3-4-2-1): Jones; Toure, Skrtel, Sakho; Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard, Markovic, Lallana, Coutinho; Sterling
- Burnley have failed to score in their last four league games against Liverpool and in five of the last six matches in all competitions.
- The Reds had lost just two of the 17 Barclays Premier League matches on Boxing Day prior to Brendan Rodgers’ arrival (W10 D5 L2).
- Danny Ings (four goals and two assists) has been involved in 50 per cent of Burnley’s goals so far this season in the Premier League.
- The woodwork at Turf Moor has been struck 10 times this season; more often than any other Premier League ground this season.
Player to watch out for
Kieran Trippier (Burnley); Lazar Markovic (Liverpool)
Burnley 1 Liverpool 3
Blast from the past