Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has defended his side's dismal record against sides from the bottom half of the Premier League ahead of the visit of 12th place Burnley to Anfield. The Reds have failed to win half of their 14 games against sides from the lower reaches of the division, a record that has destroyed a potential title challenge and has put a spot in the Champions League qualifying places in jeopardy.
Seven wins, two draws and five defeats sees the Merseysiders with the ninth worst record when pitted against teams struggling near the bottom, perhaps due to the defensive tactics employed by their traditionally smaller opponents. Top four rivals Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have the best record in the division, followed by Manchester United.
Among those losses was the 2-0 reverse against Burnley in August when goals from Sam Vokes and Andre Gray embarrassed Klopp's side at Turf Moor. The Clarets are Liverpool's next opponents on a weekend that could see them extend their lead over Arsenal and United, who are both in FA Cuip quarter-final action and currently trail Klopp's men in the race for the top four.
"People say I don't have a Plan B or whatever," the German said, according to the Liverpool Echo. "Yes, we know how to play. Have to cover specific spaces and make the right decisions. Can't just say we can only concentrate on counter attacks, set pieces, whatever. It's an all-round challenge.
"My job, how I understand it, is to help them find the right decisions easier. That's what training is for. We have to prove it on the pitch. Before Arsenal, the mood was optimistic. In this moment I'm not sure we will win against Burnley but I'm quite optimistic, because if I can bring our boys on to the pitch and not expect an easy game. We're ready for the fight."
The task of beating Burnley has been complicated by an ill-time selection headache facing Liverpool, with seven players ruled out injured. Striker Daniel Sturridge and captain Jordan Henderson remain out with hip and foot injuries, while Robert Firmino and Dejan Lovren are doubts with the former suffering a knock during the 3-1 win over Arsenal. Marko Gruijic is not yet available despite returning for the Under-23s, while Adam Bogdan, Danny Ings and Ovie Ejaria are longer-term absentees.
"Sturridge and Henderson are not available," the Liverpool boss confirmed. "Roberto Firmino struggles a little, he felt something after the game and this week he couldn't train, so we need to wait a little bit more and see. Ragnar Klavan has had some wonderful games. We will see what we do with Dejan Lovren. There's no decision yet.
"There's no time to think 'oh my God' when a player is injured, it's about finding a solution. I was not frustrated. We could have played Lovren and Matip more often. But no decision. We will see what we do. Consistency in the line-up is always good, the things you learn from each other, about each other, is important."