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1718 burnley turf moor 02 1000x500It’s 2018 and we are back in action this afternoon with a home game against Liverpool just 48 hours since we drew 0-0 at Huddersfield and, of course, unlike some of the clubs with whinging managers, we just get on with it.

We are in the middle of a tough run of fixtures. We’ve played Spurs and Manchester United in the last three and by the time we reach the first Saturday in February we will have added this game along with another against Manchester United and two against Manchester City, one of them in the FA Cup.

I think many of us are pinching ourselves at going into 2018 in 7th place with 34 points. That’s more than we accrued in either of our first two Premier League seasons and we are only six points short of last season’s record breaking total.

The first half of the season has had Burnley fans checking their passports should we qualify for Europe. It’s something Sean Dyche has been quick to play down but Ashley Barnes has joined the growing band who believe we can get a 7th place finish and that would be enough to qualify for the Europa League should both the FA Cup and League Cup be won by teams in the top six.

I’m sure, for most of us, the target back in August was to try and stay in the league again. It would certainly take a remarkable turnaround in form for us to go down now. I reckon we’d have to lose 16 of the last 17 games. Even so I’m going to keep my feet on the ground and still with the Sean Dyche mantra of one game at a time.

The first of those games is Liverpool, another tough one, but, we know we will go into it in a positive manner. I know we infiltrated the top six recently, but the top six really are way ahead of us in so many ways but these are teams that we are now proving we can take points from, apart from Arsenal and their stoppage time goals of course.

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With all of the back four having missed games recently, it’s given Kevin Long the opportunity to get some games in. He deputised twice for the injured Ben Mee and has stood in for the suspended and injured James Tarkowski in the last three games.

He had a difficult game against Spurs but has done well in others and he admitted: “It’s all about getting a run of games. It’s hard to play one game and then come back out. Playing a few games I feel I’ve been up and running.”

Tarkowski’s suspension has ended and he’s likely to be available again, subject to his injured hand which required surgery. We’ll still be without Stephen Ward and it is looking unlikely that Chris Wood will be ready in time.

We could line up: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Barnes. Subs from: Anders Lindegaard, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ashley Westwood, Dean Marney, Jon Walters, Nahki Wells, Sam Vokes.

Liverpool arrive at Turf Moor in fourth place in the table. They have seven points more than us and currently hold a three point advantage over Arsenal in fifth place. Defensively they’ve conceded more goals than us but they have very definitely scored more than us. Only Manchester City can beat their 48 league goals and they are the best away from home with 27 from ten games.

Brazilians Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho have scored nine and seven respectively but they boast the league’s second highest goalscorer right now with Egyptian Mohamed Salah (pictured) having scored 17 in the Premier League.

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They had a bad day defensively at Wembley back in October against Spurs, losing the game 4-1 but they’ve won eight and drawn four of the twelve games since. They’ve only conceded eight times and three of them came in a few minutes at Arsenal on the weekend before Christmas.

Their ability to score goals and their ability not to be good enough defensively for a top team has been a major topic for some time and they’ve finally done something about it by paying Southampton the staggering figure of £75 million for central defender Virgil van Dijk. He won’t be available today owing to the rules that a player must sign by noon on the day prior to the game.

Sean Dyche was asked if it would impact the market. “It affects the whole market and that’s the downside for the smaller clubs because everyone shifts,” he said. Asked about a value for Tarkowski, he joked: “£900 million.”

Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp has confirmed that Simon Mignolet will return in goal and then said: “I don’t know exactly how many changes we will make but I would say for sure more than one.”

There are no clues but they could be without leading scorer Salah. Having scored the two goals that won the game against Leicester on Saturday, he picked up an injury and is rated doubtful.

Their team against Leicester was: Loris Karius, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, Andy Robertson, Emre Can, James Milner, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino. Subs: Simon Mignolet, Georginio Wijnaldum, Ragnar Klavan, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Dominic Solanke, Trent Alexander-Arnold.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

We’d lost our opening game of the 2016/17 against Swansea at home and one week later it was at home again against Liverpool, a game moved from Anfield because their new stand wasn’t ready.

We hadn’t scored a home goal in the Premier League since beating Manchester City 1-0 in the 2014/15 season when George Boyd netted, but we soon put that right with Sam Vokes giving us the lead in only the second minute.

Liverpool tried to bring the ball out of defence but we pressed them and forced a loose ball from Nathaniel Clyne which Andre Gray picked up. He played it up to Sam Vokes just outside the box and he turned away from Dejan Lovren before hitting a superb shot into the bottom corner.

I think it is fair to say that Liverpool did dominate the possession but, in the main, we restricted them to shots from distance and eight minutes from half time we gave them a mountain to climb when we went 2-0 up.

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Stephen Ward won the ball back for Burnley and found debutant Steven Defour. The Belgian made a run from deep in his own half and got a bit of good fortune against Ragnar Klavan just past the half way line.

Ward made a run down the left, taking defenders away for Defour to move forward and play the ball to Gray who came inside two defenders and placed his shot just inside the post.

For both Vokes and Gray it was a first Premier League goal and for Burnley they were the first league goals we’d scored against Liverpool since 1975 when Ray Hankin scored in a 1-1 draw.

This one ended in a 2-0 win for the Clarets, the first of ten home wins during the season.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Dean Marney, Steven Defour (Johann Berg Gudmundsson 56), Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes (Lukas Jutkiewicz 82), Andre Gray (Aiden O’Neill 90+3). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Michael Kightly.

Liverpool: Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Ragnar Klavan, James Milner (Alberto Moreno 77), Adam Lallana (Marko Grujic 78), Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Daniel Sturridge (Divock Origi 65) Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho. Subs not used: Alex Manninger, Emre Can, Joel Matip, Kevin Stewart.

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