Liverpool can take a step closer to Champions League qualification by getting the better of Burnley this weekend (4pm Sunday on Sky Sports 1).
Jurgen Klopp’s charges climbed back into the top four with a 3-1 victory over Arsenal in their most recent encounter, as goals from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum helped the Merseysiders to their second Premier League win in 2017. Both of those triumphs came against rivals for the Champions League spots in Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, which is the type of encounter they have been consistently strong in throughout the 2016/17 campaign.
While Liverpool remain unbeaten in meetings with their fellow top-six outfits, they have often struggled in matches they are expected to win against supposedly inferior opponents. Klopp’s men, indeed, have dropped points when facing Hull City, Sunderland, Bournemouth and Swansea City this term, as well as at Turf Moor in the second game of the season, when Burnley ran out 2-0 winners despite seeing hardly any of the ball. Avoiding a repeat of that outcome this weekend will be essential if Liverpool are to return to Europe’s principal continental club competition next year.
Burnley fell to another defeat on the road last time out, going down 3-2 to Swansea as a result of Fernando Llorente’s dramatic winning goal in second-half stoppage time. Sean Dyche’s side have only taken two points from their matches away from home in 2016/17 – against Hull last month and Manchester United in October – and will probably struggle to pick up a positive result at Anfield on Sunday. In addition, they have little to play for in the final couple of months of the campaign.
It is worth noting that Burnley have done superbly to stay clear of the relegation zone for the majority of the season. Despite being the bookmakers’ favourites for relegation last summer, the Clarets are currently nine points clear of the drop zone with 11 fixtures left to fulfil.
Jordan Henderson could return to the matchday squad after recovering from a bruised foot, but the club captain may start among the substitutes rather than in Klopp’s line-up. Daniel Sturridge will again miss out with a hip injury, while Danny Ings is a long-term absentee with a knee problem and Marko Grujic remains sidelined with a hamstring issue. Liverpool, who will need to be patient and bide their time, will rely on Philippe Coutinho (pictured) and Adam Lallana to break down a defensive unit which is bound to sit deep.
Burnley have to find alternatives to Johann Berg Gudmundsson (knee), Steven Defour (hamstring), Dean Marney (knee) and Kevin Long (knee), but goalkeeper Tom Heaton should return between the sticks following a bout of illness. Dyche tends to favour a 4-4-2 formation with Sam Vokes and Andre Gray alongside one another up front, but the former Watford head coach may be tempted to switch to a 4-5-1 setup to ensure his side have more bodies deeper in the pitch in a bid to try and halt the Reds’ midfielders and attackers.
Despite their struggles against bottom-half sides this term, it is difficult to look past a comfortable Liverpool victory at Anfield on Sunday afternoon. Certainly the bookies think the same, with the home side generally 1/4 shots to win this match. The Reds have struggled for form since the turn of the year but have a golden opportunity to boost their top-four chances with all three points at Anfield, particularly as Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United and Manchester City are all taking part in the FA Cup rather than the Premier League this weekend.
When it comes to our preview’s betting tips selections, this is how we see the game unfolding: A Liverpool victory with over 3.5 goals scored in total provides the best value (best 17/10 with Paddy Power), while Sadio Mane (evens with Paddy Power) can find the back of the net at some point during the match.
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