With the busiest stretch of the season in full swing, it's time for Liverpool to make some sort of run if they have it in them. Other sides in the top half are going to drop points in the next few weeks, and while Liverpool aren't guaranteed anything, they're set up well to start to pair results with performances that have been promising of late. If Brendan Rodgers is going to oversee any sort of second half heroics, it needs to start immediately, or else a Premier League campaign that started so brightly will be a write-off by the time February rolls around.
For now it's one match at a time and all that, though, and tomorrow that means a focus on Sean Dyche's Burnley. The Lancashire side currently sit in the relegation zone on 15 points, level with QPR but six goals off the pace in terms of goal differential. This comes on the heels of vastly improved form relative to results earlier in the season; through November and December they've earned 11 of their 15 points on the strength of their first three wins of the campaign.
Dyche will be without Stephen Ward, Michael Duff, Matthew Taylor, and Sam Vokes into the new year, but should otherwise have a full-strength squad. In the 2-1 loss to Spurs last time out, the third-year boss went with Tom Heaton in goal, Kieran Trippier, Michael Keane, Jason Shackell, and Ben Mee across the back, George Boyd, Dean Marney, David Jones, and Scott Arfield in the midfield, and Danny Ings up front with Ashley Barnes in support.
Toure Skrtel Sakho
Henderson Lucas Gerrard Moreno
Lallana Sterling Coutinho
The injuries to Dejan Lovren, Glen Johnson, and Joe Allen will apparently keep them out tomorrow as well, meaning they'll join Daniel Sturridge and Jon Flanagan as confirmed absentees. Mario Balotelli is fit and has served his one-match ban, Suso is healthy and available for selection again, while Fabio Borini misses out after earning two yellows in quick succession on Sunday.
That there's been nearly a full week off should encourage Rodgers to go with a squad that's nearly identical to the one that faced Arsenal. At the back there aren't really any other options unless the manager opts for a change in formation, but all signs point to the 3-4-2-1 as the way forward. The one personnel change that can happen independent of formation would be Simon Mignolet in for Brad Jones, though Rodgers' comments yesterday indicate that the Belgian won't be back just yet.
Another possible change is dropping Lazar Markovic to the bench in favor of Javier Manquillo; the young Serbian is in the best form of his Liverpool career to date but hasn't played this much in months, while Moreno has seen minutes dwindle as the formation and preferred playing staff have changed. Jordan Henderson will likely continue in a right wingback role despite failing to have any consistent influence since the switch. Both Lucas and Steven Gerrard will be rested enough to start, but let's give Emre Can a mention because he's got to feature at some point in the next few weeks.
With Balotelli back there's temptation to include him straightaway, but like Mignolet, the Italian striker found himself as the focus of comments from Rodgers that make an appearance seem unlikely. Starting him on the bench would mean another start for Raheem Sterling centrally, with Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho impressing of late and set to provide support yet again.
Kickoff is set for 3:00PM GMT/10:00AM EST on Friday, with the match apparently not being shown live in the UK and NBC Sports Live Extra carrying the match in the United States. Our coverage will continue with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into live coverage, team sheets an hour before kickoff, and post-match reaction. If you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation account and join us for it.
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