Liverpool top scorer Mohamed Salah failed to recovered in time from a knock he suffered on the weekend and didn’t feature, but what really got the rumour mill going into overdrive was the fact that Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho was also not in the matchday squad.
So, without two of their most in-form players in the squad and striker Roberto Firmino warming the bench, Liverpool did look sluggish in attack against a side that have been universally been accepted as the season’s surprise package.
Sean Dyche’s men made themselves extremely compact whenever they didn’t have the ball and made life difficult for Liverpool, with the only real chance of the first-half coming when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain let fly from distance but Nick Pope was alert to the danger and made a smart stop to deny the Reds midfielder.
Dominic Solanke was afforded a rare start by Jurgen Klopp with the hectic fixture list forcing the German tactician to rotate his squad but the young striker failed the make most of his chance and struggled to make the right decisions in the final third.
It was left to Sadio Mane to spark some life into a game that seemed to be petering out towards a meaningless draw. The Senegalese controlled Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deflected cross in the box with his back to goal, but quickly spun and rifled his left-footed shot into the roof of the net on the hour-mark.
Sean Dyche responded by sending on Sam Vokes for Jeff Hendrikc but Liverpool continued to dominate and Nick Pope was forced into action twice.
Burnley, however, were growing into the game and Ashley Barnes came close to equalising with a volleyed effort inside the box while on the other end Oxlade-Chamberlain nearly scored Liverpool’s second.
The hosts continued to press and exposed Liverpool’s soft underbelly once again when Johan Gudmundsson dove in at the far-post to head home three minutes from time.
The Icelandic winger’s goal seemed to have ensured a share of the spoils, but there was to be one final twist of the tale as Ragnar Klavan combined to devastating effect with his defensive partner Dejan Lovren to give Liverpool fans the perfect start to the year.
Liverpool, who have won their last three league games on the trot, will now approach Friday’s FA Cup tie with Everton with a renewed sense of optimism and will fancy their chances of progressing at the expense of their Merseyside rivals.
Klopp’s men have closed to within a point of third-placed Chelsea, who play their game in hand on Wednesday, and their target of making the top-four for a second consecutive season seems to be on track.
Burnley have no time to feel sorry for themselves as the Clarets have a tough FA Cup tie ahead, an away trip to Premier League leaders Manchester City and Sean Dyche will do his best to engineer an upset when the sides clash on Saturday.