By Ben Stevens (@stev_ben)
Liverpool’s first three games as Premier League champions have been a mixed bag (and perhaps that’s understandable). A first league title in thirty years is certainly something to celebrate, but the season’s not done yet. Records are still to be broken. Golden boots are still up for grabs.
Liverpool have won two on the trot since the legged, lackadaisical performance at the Etihad last week. But the performances have been, at best, haphazard. And whilst some fans will say that the remaining ‘dead rubbers’ will soon pale into insignificance, I can’t help but feel that surpassing City’s record points total would be a huge psychological boost heading into 20/21.
Burnley at home is an opportunity for Klopp’s team to move within two wins of that record. But the Clarets are no pushover. They’ve collected ten points from a possible fifteen since the restart.
With European football still very much on the cards, the likes of James Tarkowski, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez and co., will be chomping at the bit to bloody the champions’ noses.
An arduous task:
Breaking down Burnley will require plenty of incision and guile. But these are two things which have been glaringly absent from the Reds in recent weeks. Naby Keita being the exception.
Generally, and I know this seems picky, Liverpool have been frustrating to watch against the low block this season, often resorting to hopeful crosses and long balls, without any meaningful periods of sustained pressure.
Also, Nick Pope was impenetrable against West Ham. So if he continues in the same vein on Saturday, creating chances won’t be the only issue.
That being said, this team have accumulated 92 points from a possible 102. This team have defied all reasonable expectations and more. This team have won all seventeen of their league fixtures at Anfield this season.
Factor in a golden boot chasing Mo Salah, and a well-rested Sadio Mane, and we have the makings of an intriguing contest.
In terms of the team, with Henderson side-lined for the foreseeable future, you’d expect a midfield trio of Fabinho, Keita and Wijnaldum. Then again, Klopp may see it as the perfect opportunity to give 19-year-old Curtis Jones a well earned first league start; as he did with Neco Williams on Wednesday.
Much will depend on Liverpool’s mindset. If they turn up like they’re already on the beach then Burnley will be licking their lips; but if they play like a team desperate to become the most prolific side in Premier League history then the likes of Tarkowski and Kevin Long will be in for a torrid afternoon.
Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Williams, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Keita, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Salah
Score: 2-1 Liverpool.