Inconsistent Liverpool wary of Burnley as Klopp plots end to peculiar results

By Steven Kelly Share Tweet 16 minutes ago Inconsistent Liverpool wary of Burnley as Klopp plots end to peculiar results

Stevie Nicol fully agrees with Jurgen Klopp's decision to send Mamadou Sakho out on loan to Crystal Palace.

Liverpool's peculiar season continues with the visit of Burnley to Anfield on Sunday.

The fact this gives fans more palpitations than last week's match with Arsenal says everything you need to know about how unpredictably predictable the Reds are becoming.

Liverpool have even played fewer matches against the rest of the current top 10 than they have against the bottom 10 but the point split is currently 29/23. It's completely ridiculous.

Burnley have a shocking record of their own away from home but somehow that only makes their visit more daunting. Everything points to an easy home win — but that's just when Liverpool are at their most vulnerable.

The normal rules of football simply don't apply to them. Jurgen Klopp promised a wild ride when he first came to Anfield and that's exactly what the fans are getting, in a marriage that kept its promise of "for better or for worse".

It's galling when you know how well this team can play, but trust in their ability to do what's expected has almost completely eroded.

Once a run like this spreads into its third month, panic sets in. Liverpool's last "normal" win was just after Christmas, when they beat Stoke 4-1 at home. That was over 10 weeks ago.

Even then they were a goal down and Stoke could easily have been out of sight before Liverpool got going and equalised.

The nine league games since have come to represent how Liverpool are these days. Wins over Manchester City, Spurs and Arsenal plus credible draws with Manchester United and Chelsea stand aside dreadful losses to Swansea, Hull and Leicester plus ignominious cup exits.

In a week when Barcelona rewrote the history books, it is fitting that Liverpool must go against the grain and yearn for some normality in their lives.

Burnley's only decent away result was a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, where United only recently drew against 10-man Bournemouth too. It may be a small crumb of comfort, but even a perfectionist multi-title winner like Jose Mourinho sometimes finds the Premier League baffling.

Klopp will have another team change to deal with if Roberto Firmino cannot start. One of the problems Liverpool face is rarely being able to pick a full strength team with any regularity, even with a reduced workload.

Burnley won the corresponding fixture 2-0 at Turf Moor back in August, giving Liverpool fans an early taster of the inconsistency to come. Sadio Mane wasn't available for selection and the visitors' attacking options were limited as a result.

After he later returned from the African Nations Cup in February it was hoped Liverpool could find some fluent form, but Mane was present — and anonymous — for away defeats at Hull and Leicester.

Sam Vokes broke the deadlock for Burnley early on against Liverpool.
Liverpool lost 2-0 at Burnley in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season.

Accusations of being fair-weather players must be galling but until Liverpool start reproducing their best form regularly, they will just have to put up with them.

People say an early goal works wonders but it isn't just that. In the opening 10 minutes of any game you can tell which Liverpool has turned up. Confidence flows through the players when they start well and score early but the intensity tells its own story; plain for all to see in the 3-1 win against Arsenal, completely absent in the 3-1 defeat at Leicester.

Sean Dyche will have a plan to stifle the home team early on, perhaps even spring one or two surprise early attacks to give the Reds something more to think about. Yet it's what Liverpool do that really counts. If they start well, it's hard to see anything other than a home victory.

The quality of the opposition never mattered in the early parts of the season. Liverpool scored 15 goals in total at home to Leicester, Hull and Watford.

Treating weaker sides like they were title chasers wasn't a problem back then. Whether the players are tired, complacent or the Klopp game-plan has indeed been found out, Liverpool's ambitions depend solely on fixing this aggravating and very real problem.

The chemistry between any team and its fans is a delicate one, and maybe the players are picking up on the supporters' own silent assumptions of victory — though by now there can't be many fans who believe it'll be easy.

Burnley have actually been on the verge of getting into the top 10 for a number of weeks but always pulled up just short.

It would be ironic if they finally achieved that place by beating the team which never loses to anyone in the top 10.

The number of Liverpool fans appreciating such irony could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.

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