Liverpool’s season in the Premier League has developed a pattern of success against the top teams and struggles against those sides lower down.
It is why last Saturday’s convincing 3-1 win over Arsenal, rivals for a top four place, was no great surprise, and why it would be no shock either if Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s team had a much tougher time at home to Burnley on Sunday.
All five of Liverpool’s league defeats to date this term have come against teams currently in the bottom half of the table, including 12th-placed Burnley, who had only 19 percent of the possession when the two sides met at Turf Moor in August yet still won 2-0.
The popular theory among regular Liverpool-watchers is that Klopp’s team are ill-equipped to face disciplined sides who defend in depth and then seek to strike on the counter-attack, as Burnley are certain to do.
“This game in a few ways is really special,” Klopp said. “Even if we had won all the games against other teams in the bottom half, Burnley is special because they have the clearest plan of all these teams.”
Burnley headed into the weekend a re-assuring nine points clear of the relegation zone and an admiring Klopp said: “I think Burnley are happy with their position in the table. It is 100 percent clear what they do, but it is 100 percent that it is not easy.
“Against Burnley it is clear what you have to expect: the knowledge about our problems against other teams is not for this game.”
The German added: “We can’t just say we can only concentrate on counter attacks, set-pieces, whatever. It’s an all-round challenge.
“My job, how I understand it, is to help them (the team) find the right decisions easier. That’s what training is for. We have to prove it on the pitch.
“In this moment I’m not sure we will win against Burnley, but I’m quite optimistic. We’re ready for the fight.”
A win for Liverpool, in fourth, would open up a five-point lead over fifth-placed Arsenal, with their rivals for a Champions League place in FA Cup action instead this weekend.
Liverpool, however, will be without captain Jordan Henderson, who has missed the last two games with a foot problem, while striker Daniel Sturridge has been sidelined by a hip injury.
In addition, fellow forward Roberto Firmino missed training on Friday with a thigh problem, but defender Dejan Lovren is recovering well from knee trouble.
Sean Dyche, the Burnley manager, believes their successful season following promotion owes much to the early lift of that win over Liverpool in August.
“It was massive at the time and still is,” he said. “Getting your first win is a big thing and the feeling that went with it. They (Liverpool) are still one of the superpower sides.
“They’ve had some bumps on the road, but on their day they’re a fantastic side. On that day we delivered a different kind of performance to get a win.
“I see a very good squad. They’ve got depth, they can change the side…they’re a top club.”
Burnley have yet to win away from home in the league this season, having taken all but two of their 31 points at Turf Moor.
“We’re the underdog, by a long margin,” said Dyche, before adding: “The beauty of football is it brings up strange anomalies, but we’ve got to make that happen.”
Joey Barton, the Liverpool-born midfielder, is available for Burnley after a FA hearing into a misconduct charge relating to bets allegedly made over a 10-year period was adjourned in midweek.