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  1. Work-rate. Incisiveness. Nous. I don't ask for much. This is how it's gonna be. Build from the ground up. Need to get back on that bike pronto. Last weekend's results are both a slap in the face and a wake-up call. The performance at Arsenal was awful, exacerbated by disastrous errors from individuals who are far from error-prone. It's not often Virg looks uncomfortable. It's not often Ali is so indecisive and penetrable. Learn from it, dust yourselves off and move on. Ideally, a game in midweek would be been a great opportunity to do just that, but a Saturday 3:00pm slot will suffice. Those are like rocking horse shit these days. We last played Burnley in our first game at Anfield in the 2021/22 season. It was the first game in front of a full house for 18 months. Much like any game against Dyche's Burnley, our players were up for it to a point yet never really got out of third gear. The ref was happy to let Burnley's spoiling tactics prevail, and the crowd was a tad subdued, especially as it was a lunchtime kick-off. Diogo got the ball rolling by getting ahead of a defender with a near-post dart to meet Kostas' left wing cross and place a header expertly into the far corner past Pope at the Kop end. The second goal took a while in coming, with both sides have a goal disallowed for offside by VAR in between - Mo for us, Barnes for them. We eventually got the second, and it was an excellent goal too. Virg played one of his trademark long passes out to Harvey on the right wing. He had time to chest the ball down and assess his options, picking out Trent's No8-style run infield (a precursor to his hybrid role 18 months later). Trent played a lovely ball round the corner into Sadio's path, and Sadio hammered the ball emphatically past Pope. Ali was required late on to make an important save, and the 2-0 win made it 6 points from 6 to open the season. At the time, we weren't to know that this squad would go agonisingly close to a quadruple, and play every fixture it was possible to play in. Kompany's Burnley are much more open than the team under Dyche for all those years. There aren't many names still there from that era. Dyche's team was heavily reliant on set-pieces, and despite keeping games tight they lost more than their fair share of games. Dyche was relegated with them twice. This lot have a more expensive approach, and Odobert out wide has looked a tidy player. Skilful, pacy and can be a handful. Not sure who they have available and who is out for them for this one. Doesn't matter, we need to take care of our shit. It's either Jarrel or Joe alongside Virg in the centre of defence as Ibou is serving a 1-match ban. If Joe is picked for the middle, Robbo will be starting at left back for us for the first time since the Autumn international break. I'm not sure Conor will be in the right frame of mind for a recall after his dad's sad passing last week, which means Trent has to pull his finger out and play a disciplined role at right back without curbing his attacking qualities. As far as I know, Endo is back after Japan's Asian Cup exit and he might yet be in contention for the squad. Thiago made his return at the weekend, and I wouldn't expect more than a fleeting role for him. Dom is out though, so it's a choice between Harvey and Grav for the third midfield berth if Endo isn't quite ready. Mac and Curtis should start. The other consideration is whether to opt for Darwin's mayhem or Cody's more measured (yet less influential) presence up front. I would opt for Darwin. For the most part he has been doing all the right things without it ever clicking for him on the goals front. At some time, that's got to change surely. Maximum motivation, concentration, attitude and application from first minute to last are a must. Let's start putting things back on track. 3 points please. Get it done!
  2. Work-rate. Incisiveness. Nous. I don't ask for much. This is how it's gonna be. Build from the ground up. First of all, please note this game is live on Amazon Prime. We go into the Boxing Day clash having missed the opportunity to top the table at Christmas. While it's true that it matters that you are top at the end of May and not at Christmas, it would have been nice to finish at Anfield in 2023 with a win. Burnley enter this having somewhat surprisingly won 2-0 at Fulham. They've changed a lot of personnel (and of course the manager) since the last time they were in the top flight. I haven't watched any of them this season (bar goal highlights) so all I know about them is that Kompany has them playing with a very different approach to that employed by his predecessor Dyche. Not many of the players from that era are still there. I've also no idea if they are missing key players for this one. Our last game at Turf Moor was in February 2022. It was in that period where Mo and Sadio were away at the AFCON (both going all the way to the final), and Fab had suddenly found the goal-den touch. He it was who scored the only goal of the game, in a manner Dyche would have been proud of. Corner flicked on at the near post by Sadio, followed up by Fab who bundled in at the second attempt. Truth be told it was a bit of a slog, and Burnley had their chances. We grabbed the 3 points but it's not a game that will live in the memory. Jurgen will go into this one a little short of options. No Robbo, Joel or Kostas as all have long-term injuries (Robbo is expected to be back some time next month). Thiago and Baj have yet to feature this season. Diogo and Mac are a few weeks away from a return. Lucho's knee will need assessing so he might be missing for this one too. And all this before the likes of Mo and Endo go away with their national teams next month! Mo is desperate to win the AFCON with Egypt (if they play anything like they did at the last one, it will involve a lot of running him into the ground as his team plays for extra time and penalties). Endo is captain of Japan's national team. I'm not expecting a cohesive performance at Burnley (though it would be very welcome of course) but I do still expect the squad to approach the game with the right motivation, concentration, attitude and application. Let's end 2023 with another 3 points please. Get it done!
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