Liverpool will renew their search for a first Premier League win since pre-Christmas when they welcome Burnley to Anfield on Thursday evening.
The champions have dropped to fourth after taking just three points from their last four top-flight outings, but they will be favourites to return to winning ways against a Burnley side teetering perilously close to the relegation one.
With the rest of the Premier League’s top four in action before Liverpool in midweek, the Reds could come into Thursday’s game sitting six points adrift of the leaders at the halfway stage of their season – a far cry from the 13-point lead, with a game in hand, that they enjoyed at the same stage of last term.
Comparisons to their title-winning 2019-20 campaign are becoming more irrelevant by the week in a unique season, though, and Jurgen Klopp has even insisted that his side must first focus on finishing in the top four before they can think about defending their crown.
An anticlimactic goalless draw with Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday made it four league games without a win for the champions, who may have even come away from their latest match relieved with a point given that the best two chances fell to their visitors.
It is their longest league winless run since February 2017 and, while plenty has been made of their defensive shortages, it is their attacking bluntness which is the chief concern now.
The goals have dried up since the floodgates opened in the 7-0 win over Crystal Palace, with Liverpool netting only once in four games since, including three blanks in a row for the first time since 2005.
Not since the 1999-2000 season have Liverpool failed to score in four successive league games, while it is a fate which has only befallen seven previous reigning top-flight champions in English football history. Ominously for Liverpool, they have been responsible for four of those seven droughts.
The numbers behind the drought are concerning too; their conversion rate from their last four league games is a meagre 1.6% – one goal from 62 shots – and clear-cut chances have been at a premium since scoring seven goals from eight shots on target at Palace.
Sunday’s stalemate was the first time in 43 games that Liverpool have failed to score at home in the league, but their unbeaten run is at least still intact and now stretches back 68 matches to April 2017.
Back-to-back home draws means that they have already dropped more points at Anfield this season than they did last term, when incidentally Burnley were the only team to take any points off the champions with a 1-1 draw in July.
Sean Dyche would gladly accept a repeat of that result this time around, even accounting for Liverpool’s form, with Burnley now sitting 17th in the table and only four points clear of the relegation zone after back-to-back 1-0 defeats.
There is no disguising where Burnley’s problems lie; their tally of 22 goals conceded is better than leaders Manchester United, but a measly return of nine goals scored in 17 games leaves them in a relegation battle.
Those troubles in the final third are most obvious away from home, where Burnley’s only goal in their last seven league outings came courtesy of a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang own goal.
Indeed, the last time the Clarets scored an away goal themselves was way back on October 3, 11 hours of football ago, and unsurprisingly they are the joint-lowest scorers on the road this season, while only Sheffield United have picked up fewer points on their travels.
Hope of a win at Anfield will not be particularly high, then, especially as Burnley have not won a league game there since September 1974 – their only victory in their last 17 visits to the stadium.
Burnley have also taken just five points from a possible 36 in Premier League games against Liverpool, but there might just be a glimmer of optimism both in the home side’s form and in the fact that the Clarets have beaten all four reigning champions they have faced in the Premier League before.
Liverpool should be able to welcome Joel Matip back into their side after he only narrowly missed out against Man United at the weekend.
The centre-back’s return will free up Jordan Henderson to move back into his favoured midfield role, potentially taking the place of Xherdan Shaqiri despite the Swiss playmaker putting in a positive performance on his surprise start at the weekend.
With Diogo Jota still sidelined, Klopp does not have much option but to keep faith with his misfiring front three, although he must also weigh up the benefits of resting players ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup showdown with Man United at Old Trafford.
The league is the priority, though, and Mohamed Salah, who is on his second-longest goal drought as a Liverpool player, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, both of whom have four goals in four league games against Burnley for Liverpool, should all start again.
The likes of Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Neco Williams and Divock Origi are among the players knocking on the door if Klopp does choose to make changes.
Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Naby Keita, Jota and Kostas Tsimikas all remain sidelined.
Burnley will hand late fitness tests to defensive duo Jimmy Dunne and Charlie Taylor, the latter of whom could be in contention to return to the starting lineup.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell is also a doubt due to illness, while Dwight McNeil will be pushing for a start after missing out in the last two games.