We’re off to Anfield – but it’s at home
When the Premier League fixtures were released on Wednesday 15th June, our first away game of the season was scheduled for Saturday 20th August, a trip to Anfield to play Liverpool, but almost within minutes came news from the Liverpool Echo that there was a likelihood of our games against this team being switched due to the lateness of completion of the new stand at Anfield.
There’s a precedent; the same thing happened in 1985 with Stockport County who were unable to stage their home game against us in August and we kicked off that season, our first in the Fourth Division, with three home games.
I went close to Edgeley Park yesterday on the way to our cup final at Leek, but I don’t think we’ll be going there or playing them here in a league game in the immediate future. While they play in National League North, we are now mixing it once more with the big boys.
For years Liverpool were THE big boys, but it’s over 26 years since they last won the title although they certainly remain one of the stronger sides in the Premier League and that will make tomorrow a difficult game for us, not as though any of the games are going to be anything but difficult.
Liverpool games have always proved difficult. In four previous Premier League games we’ve lost the lot and haven’t even scored a goal. We have to go back to March 1975 for our last league goal against them, that coming from Ray Hankin in a 1-1 Turf Moor draw with Terry McDermott equalising for Liverpool.
I felt we played well last week against Swansea, but it certainly highlighted the fact that our squad remains short of the quality required to compete at this level. The talking about new recruits continues but, less than two weeks before the window slams shut, there hasn’t been anything like enough transfer business done.
I was hoping we’d get someone in this week; we have, but I wasn’t expecting anyone to leave; they did, and that will mean at least one change tomorrow with David Jones now having played his last game for us. Sean Dyche has spoken highly of a player he clearly didn’t want to see go and Jones has thanked the Burnley fans for the support shown him in the last three years.
So, one midfielder in for another with the arrival of Steven Defour from RSC Anderlecht this week and I don’t think I can recall a signing as much talked about, in positive terms, since Ian Wright arrived in February 2000.
With Jones gone, that means at least one change from last week, but Stephen Ward, who has been an ever present since coming in after the Boxing Day defeat at Hull, is one player definitely expected to keep his place and he’s certainly positive about tomorrow’s game.
He said: “We’re excited for another big game in the Premier League. It was a tough game last Saturday and we felt we equipped ourselves well and were right in the game. Looking back maybe we deserved something from the game but you’ve got to move on. Every game is tough and it doesn’t get much tougher than Liverpool on Saturday.
We worked really hard last year to get into this league so we’ll approach every game with the right mentality and believe we can win every game.”
He added: “We’ve learnt a lot from last time we were in the league and a lot of the squad have had a taste of Premier League football. If we can get points on the board as early as possible then hopefully that will bode well for a good season.
“I think you could feel a confidence around the stadium from the players and the staff as well. There’s a real belief that we deserve to be here and we’re here on merit so we need to grab it with both hands.
The big question is who will replace Jones, or better worded the big question is whether Defour will start. Sean Dyche has all but said he’ll play a part but has admitted he hasn’t decided as yet whether that will be from the start.
If he doesn’t, we do have options. Fredrik Ulvestad could get his first ever home start or Scott Arfield could move inside with a first Burnley start for Johann Berg Gudmundsson. However, I just have a hunch that Defour will get the nod.
There will be little change elsewhere. Ashley Barnes remains out of the side through an injury sustained four weeks ago at Bradford City while Jon Flanagan, who played in Burnley colours for the first time last night at Leek, is ineligible against his parent club.
I think we might line up: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Dean Marney, Steven Defour, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray. Subs from: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Fredrik Ulvestad, Michael Kightly, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Rouwen Hennings, Lukas Jutkiewicz.
There was a time when I thought Liverpool would always dominate English football and it is hard to believe that they have never been Premier League winners, that last title success coming in 1990.
Things looked to be back on the up three seasons ago. For a time they looked as though they could win the league, but they faltered at the end. A home defeat against Chelsea and a 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace, having led 3-0 with 11 minutes to go, ended their hopes.
A year later they finished sixth and it was an eighth place finish last season with a difficult start costing Brendan Rodgers his job.
There were some major influences during that title challenge of 2014. Luis Suarez scored an incredible 31 goals in 33 league games, adding some real bite to the attack, alongside Daniel Sturridge who scored 21 in 26. That’s some return from your front two and they still had Steve Gerrard then; he scored 13 league goals.
Sturridge didn’t play last week when they won 4-3 against Arsenal at the Emirates. From being a goal down, they found themselves 4-1 up just past the hour and, watching it on television, their form in that period worried me to death. But they didn’t sustain it; they did give goals away too cheaply and, as difficult as it might be tomorrow, it is far from an impossible task to go and beat them for the first time since an Ian Brennan goal gave us a 1-0 win at Anfield.
The best of the goals was a superb debut goal from Sadio Mane but he’s sustained a shoulder injury in training and, although not serious, is likely to keep him out. If that’s bad news, they do have good news with Sturridge and James Milner both reporting fit although the game is expected to come too soon for Mamadou Sakho and Lucas Leiva. Milner could come in at left-back form Alberto Moreno who came in for some criticism last week. There could also be a place on the bench for Danny Ings, a player who knows Turf Moor well after four years with us.
Liverpool’s team could be: Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Ragnar Klavan , James Milner, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino Philippe Coutinho. Subs from: Alex Manninger, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alberto Moreno, Marko Grujic, Joel Matip, Emre Can, Kevin Stewart, Danny Ings, Divock Origi.
LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE
Boxing Day 2014 was the last time Liverpool visited Burnley. We were, at the time, on a run of four successive home games without defeat with draws against Aston Villa and Newcastle sandwiched between wins against Hull and Southampton.
This was the day when we really could have ended that run without a win against Liverpool. Certainly in the first half we were by far the better team on a day when the Burnley fans offered their support to former player Clarke Carlisle who had been involved in a traffic accident.
If there was a time when Brendan Rodgers thought Danny Ings might be a good signing, this might have been it. He was involved in everything and came closest to breaking the deadlock with a shot against the post while Scott Arfield saw an effort cleared off the line by Lucas Leiva.
Nothing much changed in the second half until just after the hour when Philippe Coutinho got the ball from a Jason Shackell header and he released Raheem Sterling. His pace took him away from our defenders and he went past Tom Heaton before sliding the ball home.
We did everything to get back into the game but it wasn’t to be. Quite how we got nothing from it, quite how we lost it 1-0, I don’t know, but that’s how it ended.
Sean Dyche said afterwards: “We were excellent, particularly in the first half and on every level. I felt we were good over the ninety minutes if I’m honest. We looked a real force and to keep that dominance up for ninety minutes is hard.
“I would say that first half is up there as the best we’ve played in my time here, certainly when you consider the quality of the opposition.”
The game saw the return of Sam Vokes, his first action in the first team since the injury sustained against Leicester nine months earlier, and for the Clarets, we’d a tough trip to Manchester City to come two days later.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Keane, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee (Lukas Jutkiewicz 90+3), George Boyd, Dean Marney, David Jones (Ross Wallace 83), Scott Arfield, Danny Ings, Ashley Barnes (Sam Vokes 80). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Steven Reid, Kevin Long, Michael Kightly.
Liverpool: Brad Jones (Simon Mignolet 16), Kole Touré (Emre Can ht), Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Lazar Markovic, Philippe Coutinho (Rickie Lambert 73), Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling. Subs not used: Alberto Moreno, Javi Manquillo, Oluwaseyi Ojo, Mario Balotelli.Share this page :