LIVERPOOL will be looking to quickly sweep Saturday’s loss to Burnley under the rug, and have an ideal opportunity to do so with a Tuesday night trip to Burton Albion in the League Cup second round. We spoke to Joshua Murray from the Burton Mail to get the lowdown on the Reds’ opponents.
What can travelling fans expect from Burton upon Trent?
Burton is renowned for being the brewing capital of the UK – hence the club’s nickname – so a trip to one of the town’s many pubs before kick-off to sample some local brews will likely be high on the list of quite a few visiting supporters this season.
On top of that, I would imagine a trip to the Pirelli Stadium will be a first for the majority of Reds fans on Tuesday. It is not necessarily what you’d expect from a Championship ground – the capacity is around 7,000 – but it’s a great place to watch football, so many might want to get there early and take in the slightly different surroundings to what Liverpool are used to playing in.
The Brewers are four games into their league season and currently sit 18th in the Championship, how have the team been performing?
It’s early doors, of course, but the Brewers’ early-season performances have been highly encouraging for their prospects in the Championship. With eight or nine new faces in, Nigel Clough has the team playing a new, more attack-based system – and that is being reflected in results.
They were unlucky not to get something on the opening day against Nottingham Forest – 4-3, what an introduction to the second tier! – and then dominated Bristol City for large spells only to get hit by a 95th-minute winner. I think the 3-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday forced a few people to sit up and take notice, though, as they ran and passed the Owls off the park at times. A late equaliser got them a 2-2 draw at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, so they have also shown they can battle back in games when needs be.
Overall, they’ve certainly shown they are here to do more than make up the numbers – and they’ll have that in mind against Liverpool as well.
And what is the feeling like among Burton fans, given how it has gone so far?
Given this is the Brewers’ first ever season in the Championship – and last season was their first in League One – there were naturally some pre-campaign nerves. But more than anything, the supporters have been excited about the prospect of seeing Albion against some of the biggest sides in English football – and I think that excitement has only grown with the performances they’ve produced so far.
Nine goals from four league games has them as the league’s top scorers – something few would have predicted over the summer – and there is a real positivity to the way they play their football, which the fans appreciate.
The club has progressed so much over the past decade or so, and it is weeks like this one – with the Reds arriving on Tuesday and neighbours Derby County visiting the Pirelli for the first competitive clash between the two sides – that really bring it home to everyone involved just what Burton Albion have achieved.
Liverpool tickets sold out
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— Burton Albion FC (@burtonalbionfc) August 16, 2016
Which Burton players should we be looking out for during the game?
Whenever I am asked this question, striker Stuart Beavon is always the first name that comes to mind. A lone forward for the past couple of seasons, he now plays with a fellow frontman in a 3-5-2, and he is so crucial to the way the Brewers play. So much of the attacking play goes through him, with little passes and knockdowns opening up space for others. He is also one of the most energetic players you will ever see, and his constant running at the top of the pitch puts pressure on opposing defenders and allows Albion to defend from the front and spring quickly into attack.
Another player who has really impressed so far this season is central midfielder Matt Palmer. The 21-year-old was last week rewarded with a two-year contract, and you can see why Albion were so keen to keep him at the Pirelli long-term. His playmaking ways are well suited to the Championship, he pulls the strings for the team and his set-piece deliveries have been superbly consistent this season, with his late corner producing the equaliser at Ewood Park on Saturday.
It’s hard to predict how Liverpool will line up, but which players do you think could really cause Burton problems?
Like you say, it’s hard to know how Liverpool will line up against the Brewers – there are certainly players across the pitch and throughout the Reds squad that would be a real threat, I’m sure! Of the players we perhaps expect to start, the pace and guile of Divock Origi will be a challenge for the Albion defenders to deal with.
What have you made of Liverpool under Jürgen Klopp?
By and large, they are certainly one of the most entertaining sides to watch in the Premier League – their games are rarely dull. It seems as though Klopp has made Liverpool a much tougher prospect in those big games – the way they tore into Arsenal at the start of the second half last weekend is a case in point – although there is still that tendency to slump in sporadic fashion at the so-called lesser teams.
Klopp is building a side in his own footballing image now though and, without the exertions of European football this season, I fancy them to push for the top four and at least one trophy.
Where do you expect the Reds to finish in the Premier League?
I’ve almost answered this above, but I would not be surprised to see them battling with the Manchester sides, Chelsea, Arsenal – inevitably – and perhaps Spurs for a Champions League place come May.
If they can start to get rid of those performances where things just don’t happen for them – a la Burnley on Saturday – so regularly then I think they’ve got a real chance of top four. The title is perhaps a step too far in 2016/17 given the money the Manchester duo have spent and the likely ‘honeymoon period’ of the new managers, but Liverpool definitely seem to be heading in the right direction.
And what is the expectation among Burton fans for the season?
Survival is absolutely the main aim for the Brewers this season – if they can stay up on the first attempt, it would be another fine achievement for the club.
They have certainly started in the right fashion and I think fans are feeling quietly confident about what they can achieve over the next nine months, given the positivity of their performances to date. As I say, though, 21st or above constitutes a successful season.
Finally, can we have a score prediction for the game?
I’m not going to nail my colours to the mast of a scoreline, but I’m predicting goals and perhaps extra-time to separate the sides. As Nigel Clough has said, if Liverpool produce the football they are capable of, the Brewers will face a real challenge. So maybe the Reds after extra-time?