Breaking the Mourinho hoodoo, kind of.
Brendan Rodgers has never defeated Jose Mourinho, so how will he fare against the ‘Ginger Mourinho’ Sean Dyche, when he takes his Liverpool side to what will be a rowdy Turf Moor on Boxing day.
The gruffly spoken Burnley manager has done a superb job with Burnley, following on from the relatively good job he did at Watford. He coped with a restrictive budget at both clubs yet managed to get an unfancied Burnley side promoted last season with a league low 5 defeats in the whole of last season. Quite the feat when some bookies backed the Clarets to be amongst the favourites to be relegated.
The Burnley side is set out to counter and tend to favour overloading their right hand side with Kieran Tripper offering the support; this may cause problems if Liverpool use the same set up they’ve used in the past three games. Markovic, the Liverpool left wing-back, is intent on attacking which leaves space in behind, it’s worth remembering this isn’t his natural position so it’s to be expected. It’s up to Rodgers to find a way for that space to be closed, either by the lcb pushing over, or Lucas filling in for Markovic when he does attack. George Boyd plays on the right side of midfield and is capable of causing a few problems when drifting infield, which then allows Trippier to overlap and keep the width. However, Burnley do have the returning Michael Kightly, who is a different prospect to Boyd but just as dangerous if you leave him one on one.
Burnley also favour the long shots, which against Brad Jones is probably a good idea on their behalf. Jones hasn’t impressed in his three outings this season and the likes of Danny Ings and Ashley Barnes must be confident about adding to their goal tallies when facing the Australian stopper.
Their form has picked up in recent weeks; two defeats in 6 (I’m taking the Brendan Rodgers approach there and ignoring the draws when trying to manipulate the current form) with wins away to Stoke and at home to Southampton shows they shouldn’t be taken lightly.
One to Watch
Danny Ings, 4 goals and 2 assists in his last 8 games shows how important he is to Burnley, he finds his feet in the Premier League and suddenly Burnley start winning; it’s no coincidence. The ex Bournemouth forward was unlucky with injuries before exploding onto the Championship last season and relishing the main man role he took on following the sale of Charlie Austin. The Englishman formed a lethal partnership alongside Sam Vokes last season with the pair amassing 43 goals between them. Could the potential return from injury of Vokes reignite that spark and cause some Premier League defences some concern?
The Line up
Burnley tend to play a 442 formation, with both wide midfielders, George Boyd and Harry Arfield drifting infield. Centrally they have the technically talented David Jones and the tenacious Dean Marney, both of whom have Premier League experience. Danny Ings is a nailed on starter, but who partners him depends on if Sean Dyche feels Vokes is fit enough, don’t be surprised to see him start Ashley Barnes but bring Vokes on at somepoint.
Defensively they line up with Tom Heaton in goal and then, from left to right, Ben Mee, Jason Shackell, Michael Keane and Kieran Trippier.
The last time Liverpool went to Turf Moor they come away with a 4-0 win, yet it was 0-0 at half time before an inspired Steven Gerrard performance ( the skipper scored 2 goals in 7 minutes) made the game look much easier than it was.
At the beginning of the season when the fixtures were announced I’m sure many Liverpool fans looked at this Boxing Day match and thought it was a banker. Burnley shouldn’t be taken lightly though, a trip to Pride Park to face Derby on Boxing Day in 2008 showed how tricky these games can be. The Reds were flying high that season yet needed a late Steven Gerrard goal to come away with a 2-1 win.
After a few disappointing results though, a win is imperative. Rodgers finally records a win against a Mourinho of some kind, and it’d give the Liverpool fans some well deserved festive cheer.