Liverpool are off the top of the Premier League following a 0-0 draw against Everton at Goodison Park. But with nine games to go, it’s still all to play, and the Reds will be hoping to bounce back from their fourth draw in six league games with a home fixture against Burnley. So what are some of the potentially key battles from a big game at Anfield?
Virgil Van Dijk vs Ashley Barnes
With nine goals and two assists in just 1600 minutes, Ashley Barnes is Burnley’s top scorer and an incredibly useful player. He was heavily involved in the Clarets’ goal against Liverpool at Turf Moor and is expected to line up as part of a front two with Chris Wood.
Burnley will look to play a long ball game, and will look to be strong against the likes of VVD and Matip, whilst also getting in behind them. But Van Dijk is in the form of his life and was exceptional against Everton. Given that from a defensive perspective this could end up being a similar type of game, Van Dijk may have to put in a similar performance as Barnes is not only a physical handful but a quality threat and a good finisher. Liverpool will need their player of the season to be at his best.
Sadio Mané vs Phil Bardsley
Sadio has been Liverpool’s most important attacker in 2019, with a hot run of form either off the left or through the centre. He’s expected to go back to the left against Burnley, where he’ll find himself facing down Phil Bardsley. Bardsley is an experienced full-back, but he’s aging and gives away a lot of fouls, so Mané targeting him with pace and trickery is a good area for Liverpool to expose Burnley.
Given that Burnley are excellent aerially, it will require a little more finesse to break them down, and that’s where Liverpool’s top scorer this calendar year could be vital. Mané is getting into a habit of scoring important goals, and it will be good news for Liverpool if he can deliver the goods again.
Roberto Firmino vs James Tarkowski
Tarkowski is one of Burnley’s aerial juggernauts, and on top of being useful in the opposition penalty area, has proven himself an excellent defender – good enough that there were rumours swirling about him joining Liverpool last summer although they proved to lead nowhere. However, Bobby Firmino was the catalyst for a big Liverpool second half performance against Burnley, as his goal off the bench inspired them to a 3-1 win at Turf Moor.
Scoring against a side like Burnley is rarely easy, but this season they have been significantly more porous, conceding the third highest xGA and the fourth most goals of any PL team at 49.20 and 53 respectively. If Liverpool can get Firmino in the game, they could find their day at the office becomes a lot more straightforward.