It is the kind of victory than can galvanise a team to do special things in a season. But facing a short turnaround, Liverpool know their dramatic Merseyside Derby win will mean little if they do not follow it up with another three points Wednesday at Turf Moor versus struggling Burnley.
POTENTIAL STARTING XIs
The 232nd matchup between the Reds and Everton was a tense affair with Liverpool goalkeeper Allison preserving a scoreless deadlock early with a world-class save on a point-blank header from Andre Gomes inside the six-yard box before Joe Gomez cleared the ball off the line midway through the first half. There were few scoreless chances over the final 45 minutes until a moment of sheer luck and folly followed in stoppage time.
Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk scuffed a volley attempt, slicing it like a pop-up with his right foot and turning away in disgust as it sailed towards goal. Everton keeper Jordan Pickford, trying to make a play on it, failed to tip it over the bar for a corner kick but instead knocked it straight up, causing it to bounce on the top of the crossbar.
From there it fell forward and Divock Origi – the last gamble off the bench from Jurgen Klopp and playing his first Premier League match since the start of last season – nodded it home in the 96th minute to send the Kop into delirium and his manager into a frenzied on-pitch celebration with Alisson that will undoubtedly result, in the very least, a five-figure fine.
The 1-0 victory marked a 19th straight year Everton would leave Anfield and retreat across Stanley Park without a victory, but more importantly for Liverpool (11-3-0), the result kept them two points behind defending champions Manchester City.
“It was a really difficult game today – derbies are always difficult but today it was a completely different difficult to the last few years,” Klopp said post-match. “All my respect for Everton, they were really good. Both teams delivered a proper fight, a proper derby from the first second.
“Of course, it was a bit lucky – Virg, in the moment when the ball left his foot I thought it was over and then you see the back-spin, you see the ball flies direct onto the crossbar and then it was an unthankful job for Pickford and Divock was there. It was a very intense game and obviously a much nicer finish for us.”
Klopp opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation for this match, putting his best four attacking options out there in Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri. Given the intensity of the derby, it would not be surprising to see Klopp revert to the 4-3-3 he has used for most of the season, with the most obvious change being Jordan Henderson back in the middle of the park after serving his one-match ban for his double booking versus Watford.
James Milner and Naby Keita could complete the midfield trio given the former was an unused substitute and the latter entered for Shaqiri in the 71st minute. In defence, it would not be surprising to see either Gomez or Van Dijk get this match off with Dejan Lovren entering in central defence.
While Liverpool are coming off the highest of highs, Burnley (2-3-9) continue to deal with the lows of a season that began with such promise and Europa League qualifying rounds. The Clarets are ahead of only Fulham in the table after their fifth loss in six matches, a 2-0 defeat at Crystal Park on Saturday.
“We are in that strange position where the eye of the tiger has gone a little. Last year everyone was on it, all of the time, and we showed no fear,” manager Sean Dyche told the club’s official website after the loss. “We looked people in the eye and said, ‘you had better be ready, because we are’ and that gives you a chance with everything, particularly when you have that underdog feel.
“Our status has changed, which should be a good thing. The players and the club have become more recognised, because of the achievements of last season, and that brings a different demand. I actually enjoy that, because we’ve worked hard to be recognised. But while some individuals love that and thrive on it, others find it really tough and we are kind of in that mixed bag and it’s affecting the group tactically.”
What made the performance all the more jarring is that Burnley – a sound side last term who finished seventh by conceding just 39 goals – have already shipped 29 through 14 matches. The offence is not helping matters any with just four goals during their seven-match winless spell (0-2-5) and did not register a shot on target versus the Eagles.
Crystal Palace accumulated a 29-4 edge in overall shots while keeping Joe Hart busy – the Burnley keeper finished with seven saves and has a Premier League-high 61.
It would not be surprising to see Dyche restore Sam Vokes as his centre-forward over Chris Wood considering the New Zealand international has gone three matches without a goal in the first XI.
The Clarets have just one win in eight top-flight matches (1-1-6) versus Liverpool, a 2-0 victory in 2016-17. Liverpool scratched out a 2-1 win in last season’s corresponding fixture, with defender Ragnar Klavan scoring the winner on 94 minutes.
Per Bet365, Liverpool are convincing 2/7 favourites to extend Burnley’s misery while remaining their stalking of Manchester City. The odds of the Clarets nicking a point from this contest are 19/4, and they are 13/1 longshots to claim all three points with a shock scoreline.
Oddsmakers are also expecting goals, with 8/13 odds listed for a total over 2.5 goals compared to 13/10 for finishing under that threshold. There also is not much faith in Burnley putting one past Alisson it seems since there are 4/6 odds for at least one clean sheet compared to 11/10 odds for both teams to score.
Salah leads the line for first goal-scorers at 12/5, followed by Daniel Sturridge (11/4). Origi’s late heroics have moved him to third on the list at 15/4, followed by Liverpool’s other primary strikers Firmino (4/1) and Mane (9/2). Shaqiri continues the list of Reds at 6/1, with the rested James Milner (9/1) and somewhat-rested Keita (11/1) also ahead of top Burnley options Ashley Wood, Matej Vydra and Chris Wood (12/1).
Salah, Sturridge, and Origi all are better than even money odds to score in this match, ranging from 4/7 to 20/21. Firmino (21/20) and Mane (6/5) are just off that level, with Shaqiri checking in at 13/8. Milner has 13/5 odds and Keita is 10/3. Burnley’s aforementioned trio are all 15/4 to provide a goal for the home supporters.
While there is some concern about Liverpool potentially suffering a letdown after such a dramatic victory, there is also the matter of player rotation ahead of their Champions League showdown versus Napoli next Tuesday. The good news for Klopp is he will be able to rotate his side back and forth based on the two formations he has used, and he also has the depth in terms of bodies to make sure everyone is fresh to face the Italian side.
There will likely be at least four new faces in the starting XI, and it would not be surprising to see Klopp swap out both central defenders and go with Lovren and Joel Matip. There will also likely be room out wide for Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne over the next two matches as they will deputise for Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
An entirely new midfield is not out of the question with Milner and Henderson fully fresh, and there will be some changes up front. Who, though, is anyone’s guess, but the expectation is Sturridge will lead the line for this match, and Origi possibly getting the start with Firmino coming off the bench.
While Burnley are in a relegation fight, it is wise to take a moment to compare the Clarets with one of their bottom three brethren in Southampton. The former have the iron will of Sean Dyche, who is not deluding himself or his side when it comes to the work that has to be done to climb upwards.
Contrast that with Southampton, now on their fourth manager in less than two seasons following the (overdue) sacking of Mark Hughes on Monday. The Saints appear to be a team that simply cannot get out of their own way, squandering points from a winning position more times than they care to admit.
Simply put, Burnley have to improve. At the same time, Dyche’s steadfastness and focus on the task at hand provides optimism they can. It may not happen in this match, but it does need to happen soon for the Clarets. The back four will be the key (or fault) for that revival, and even facing second-choice strikers in this contest will not do Burnley much good.
This is a match about small steps for the Clarets, and maybe they can steal a point if things break right. But the more important match comes this weekend at Brighton and Hove Albion, and winning that match starts with the small steps in this one.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 0, Liverpool 2.
OTHER EPL Match Day 15 Previews:
Bournemouth (6-2-6) vs. Huddersfield Town (2-4-8)
Watford (6-2-6) vs. Manchester City (12-2-0)
Wolverhampton (4-4-6) vs. Chelsea (9-4-1)
Manchester United (6-4-4) vs. Arsenal (9-3-2)