Burnley v Liverpool: Clarets can put up a fight

Burnley can keep the reins on Liverpool and look worth backing in the handicap ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash, says Andy Schooler.

Can the defensive organisation and doggedness deal with the undoubted superior quality of the opposition, a side who have often scored goals for fun?

Burnley tough to beat

Burnley may sit bottom with only one win all season but the fact is they are just four points from safety with two games in hand.

That's because they've proved hard to beat - 11 draws mean they have avoided defeat in 12 of 20 games so far.

The Clarets have now drawn 10 of their last 15 with the last four at Turf Moor all ending all square. The latest of those was on Tuesday night when an impressive second-half fightback earned a 1-1 draw with Manchester United, new signing Wout Weghorst settling in well.

Boss Sean Dyche says his side must "keep that form and feel" for this contest.

Dyche will hope Weghorst can help solve a problem that has lingered all season for Burnley. They've failed to score in nine of those 20 matches, while against the current top eight, they've managed to find the net only three times in nine games.

However, on the other side of the ball, they've been pretty solid.

Despite lying in the basement, Burnley have, by some distance, the best defensive record in the bottom half of the table.

Much of that is down to the centre-back partnership of James Tarkowski and Ben Mee, two players who were magnificent in last season's 1-0 win at Anfield, a match which proved they are capable of thwarting Liverpool.

Reds eye Inter clash

Admittedly, Liverpool's did not start their feared front three that day - Mo Salah was on the bench and Diogo Jota injured - but it seems unlikely the trio will be in tandem again here.

While Salah may return to the starting XI after being a substitute during Thursday's win over Leicester, Jurgen Klopp's comments on Friday hinted at a similar role for Sadio Mane (pictured) following his Africa Cup of Nations heroics with Senegal.

Klopp's praise for Luis Diaz suggested he would be more than happy to stick with the Colombian on the left-hand side for this one, while midfielder Jordan Henderson is expected to be available again.

Sadio Mane peace sign 1280.jpg

There's also Wednesday's looming Champions League trip to Inter Milan to consider so you have to think some players will be held back for that one.

Whatever XI he puts out, the Reds' boss will know they will have to fight for their right to play.

"The things that they do, they are nearly perfect," he said after August's 2-0 victory in the reverse fixture. "You have to work incredibly hard to get any little kind if advantage."

He added it was difficult to truly prepare for a game such as this, saying it would be crazy to put in so many physical challenges in training.

Clarets can keep it close

That physicality will be an area Burnley look to profit from, although perhaps not in the most obvious way.

If the hosts can make Liverpool work hard with the ball then fatigue could play a part.

Burnley played a full 48 hours before Liverpool in midweek and that extra rest may well be a factor.

Having won five on the spin following their Christmas/New Year stutter, Liverpool will probably get the job done but a price of 1.31 to win the game won't be for many.

Another draw for Burnley is at 6.0 with the shock home win available to back at 12.5.

However, I like the handicap market for this game where Burnley (+2) is at odds-against (2.1).

They've covered this in every home game this season and do have that ability to contain.

Of course, if any team is likely to be able to break that run then it's the attack-minded Liverpool but for reasons already stated, this may not be the full-strength Reds and with a packed schedule to come, game management may well come into play if they are a goal up heading into the final 20 minutes.

In any case, Liverpool haven't been smashing teams away from home for some time.

We all remember their 5-0 win at Old Trafford in October but since then they've covered a -2 handicap only twice in seven league road trips.

Following card trends could reward

For something bigger, there's an unusual angle I like the look of here with no card available at 11/1.

For all the talk about Burnley's physical nature, that's actually landed in four of the last eight meetings between these sides, including the last two.

Lots of teams stand off Liverpool and try to get numbers behind the ball rather than engage with them and that's reflected in the fouled-against table - only West Ham have been fouled less this season, Interestingly, Burnley are third in that list.

And it's a longer-term trend than simply this season, too.

Burnley were involved in a league-high six games with no cards last season and five the season before. Liverpool's stats on this metric are also strong - four no-card games in 2020/21 and five in 2019/20.

In Martin Atkinson, we've got one of the most lenient referees in the top flight and across the last two seasons he's shown no cards at all in five of his 40 games.

Put together, that evidence makes the 11/1 quote look big and while it's a bet which can quickly go wrong, it's worth some small change.

Opta fact

Burnley have won just one of their last 23 Premier League games (D11 L11), with 10 of their last 15 ending in a draw. Indeed, they've drawn each of their last three league games, last having four consecutive draws back in March 1987 while in the fourth tier.

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