LONDON • Liverpool's season in the English Premier League has developed a pattern of success against the top teams and struggles against those sides lower down.
It was why last week'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 they find Burnley tough to beat today.
The Reds are unbeaten against the current top six sides this term. However, all five of their league defeats to date have come against teams currently in the bottom half of the table. That includes 12th-placed Burnley, who had only 19 per cent 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 Jurgen 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."
All five of Liverpool's Premier League defeats have come at the hands of teams in the lower half of the table, including a 0-2 loss in the reverse fixture with today's opponents Burnley.
Burnley headed into the weekend nine points clear of the relegation zone and an admiring Klopp added: "I think Burnley are happy with their position in the table. It is 100 per cent clear what they do, but it is 100 per cent not easy.
"Against Burnley it is clear what you have to expect. We can't just say we can concentrate only on counter-attacks, set-pieces, whatever. It's an all-round challenge.
"My job is to help them (the team) find the right decisions easier. 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 place, would open up a five-point lead over fifth-placed Arsenal, who are 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."
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," added Dyche.
"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 Football Association (FA) hearing into a misconduct charge relating to bets he allegedly made over a 10-year period was adjourned in midweek.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
LIVERPOOL V BURNLEY
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