With top four on the line and just THREE wins in 11 against the bottom six this season, Liverpool head to Burnley knowing nothing but victory will do to preserve Champions League status (and they won’t want to rely on another late goal from their keeper!)
- Liverpool head to Turf Moor tonight knowing they MUST take all three points
- The Reds can qualify for the Champions League if they win their last two games
- Against West Brom Liverpool needed a sublime late winner from the goalkeeper
- Burnley fans will be in full voice on their return and are attending the tie for free
It’s do or die time for Liverpool this evening at Turf Moor.
Liverpool’s biggest game of the season rests in the north west, in the humble Lancashire town of Burnley.
With Champions League qualification on the line, the mission for the Reds is a simple albeit nerve-wracking one. Just win.
After beating West Brom in such dramatic fashion on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s side know two wins from the remaining two matches will see them into the top four and secure passage to Europe’s elite competition.
The narrative is building however, and many things are seemingly stacked against the Reds.
The pressure is on for Jurgen Klopp and, after beating West Brom, there is still much to do
At Turf Moor, under the lights and with the return of fans, Liverpool have no choice but to win
What is poised to be a chilly and potentially rain-soaked evening at Turf Moor will be compounded by the return of 10,000 passionate supporters, each desperate to roar their side on again after being kept away due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Burnley have pulled out all the stops to welcome their fans back, rolling out the red carpet to allow the lucky ballot selectees to take their places in the stands for free, as a thank you present.
A nice gesture, which is sure to perk up spirits even more. This could spell bad news for Liverpool, who could certainly do without a wall of noise greeting their every touch of the ball.
Klopp himself and several of the Reds first team stars have already referred to the remaining matches as ‘two finals,’ and Liverpool must treat them as such if they are to salvage their season at the death.
For this to happen, however, a bucking of the trend must occur.
No room for error: Liverpool know two victories from their final two matches must be achieved
Alisson shocked the football world with his West Brom winner but Liverpool now must take control and avoid hoping for a late miracle once again
Against the bottom six teams this season, Liverpool truly have come unstuck.
Following a string of unfortunate events, with key personnel dropping like flies and being ruled out for the season, Klopp’s men have lost their edge when it comes to squeezing results from the lesser opponents.
This was the area in which the team excelled last season, and a huge reason as to why Liverpool were able to storm to the Premier League title quicker than any side ever before.
Klopp’s team were so efficient and well drilled that the teams in the bottom half of the division were swiftly dispatched and swept aside, while being viewed as bankers for an automatic three points.
Gone were the days of troublesome draws against the West Broms and Fulhams of the world, yet this season Liverpool have come crashing back down to reality.
Liverpool’s bottom six record has been poor this season and Burnley will be well aware
Indeed, the Reds have won only three matches against the bottom six teams this season. It’s a statistic which goes some way to explaining why the Merseysiders are still battling tooth and nail for the top four in the final days of the campaign.
Liverpool recorded home and away victories over relegated Sheffield United, who will depart the division as the rock bottom side. They also managed to beat West Brom over the weekend – just – courtesy of some divine intervention with goalkeeper Alisson scoring a header with the last touch of the match.
These wins aside, however, no others have followed.
Klopp watched on as his side drew to Fulham at Craven Cottage before losing in humiliating fashion at home. Newcastle earned a draw with the Reds both home and away, while West Brom took a point at Anfield, and Brighton also defeated Liverpool at home before holding them to a draw on the south coast.
And then, of course, there is Burnley. The first side to defeat Liverpool at home this season, ending a colossal 68-match unbeaten run inside their own stadium.
The fact that the Clarets were able to unpick Liverpool at Anfield, and be the first team to do so in such a long period, will undoubtedly have left a psychological impact.
As the two teams battled, back in January, Liverpool had peppered the goal of their opponents yet looked destined for a frustrating goalless draw.
Chances were being squandered aplenty and Divock Origi rattled the crossbar after being put clean through on goal.
The Reds were set for an Anfield draw but Ashley Barnes’ late penalty ended the home record
Liverpool were livid, yet at least it would be a point in the bag… or, would it?
A rush of blood to the head moment in the dying stages saw Alisson fell Ashley Barnes in the area, before the big forward slotted home a penalty on 83 minutes.
Liverpool were rocked, and though they pressed forward again and again, the match had slipped by. For all of their 72% possession and 27 shots on target, Klopp’s men had nothing to show and the Anfield bubble had been burst.
Now, while tonight presents a revenge mission of sorts, Liverpool must take on a side who they know have the mental upper hand.
Burnley’s top flight safety is assured, meaning Sean Dyche’s men can play without pressure and feed off the screams and enthusiasm of their returning fans.
As far as scenarios go, it is absolutely not what Klopp would have opted for.
Liverpool dominated the match but were picked off, and it started a spiral of poor home results
Turf Moor tales
When it comes to drama at Turf Moor, Liverpool know all about it.
We only have to go back as recently as January 2018 to examine the last time the Reds found themselves on the ropes in Lancashire.
Tensions were at an all time high after managers Klopp and Dyche had exchanged a series of strong words, in which the Burnley boss accused his counterpart of being a poor loser with a fixation on possession stats over results.
Liverpool, on that occasion, had broken the deadlock on the hour mark through Sadio Mane – only for Johann Gudmundsson to hit an equaliser for the Clarets just minutes before the 90 was due to expire.
Pushing all hands to the pump, Liverpool somehow rallied in added time and a looping freekick pitched into the Burnley box saw centre back pairing Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan link up.
Liverpool know all about late drama at Turf Moor, after Ragnar Klavan’s winner in early 2018
The Croatian rose highest at the far post, heading the ball back across to his partner Klavan to put into the back of the net.
In the away end, scenes of hysteria erupted.
Klopp will be hoping for much less drama this time around, yet offer him the same outcome and same circumstances right now and he would snatch it off the table.
Historically, Liverpool’s visits to Burnley have not been too bad.
The Reds have won on each of the last three occasions they have visited the stomping ground of Dyche’s men, scoring eight goals in the process.
Many variables and influencing factors will no doubt be fizzing through Klopp’s mind right up until the first whistle, but the experienced German coach knows full well that the first goal in the tie will be crucial.
Liverpool, with their makeshift defence going up against the imposing (and very much in-form) Chris Wood, know that there will be little to no room for error.
One goal for the hosts, particularly an opening goal, will spark the fires of fan passion across all four stands of the old stadium.
To not give themselves a fighting chance on the final weekend, after Alisson’s West Brom miracle, would be a hammer blow for Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool side
This time, unlike their recent outing against the Baggies, Liverpool must find their stride from the off and make chances count.
Burnley, meanwhile, have won only once at home against a ‘big six’ Premier League side in the last 15 matches. It’s a run which should give Liverpool confidence, but likewise could set the nerves on edge. Are times now ripe for change?
For Liverpool not to have a fighting chance of top four reckoning heading into the final weekend of the season, in the immediate aftermath of Alisson’s disbelieving winner, doesn’t bear thinking about.
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