'Life is not over' – How an embarrassing loss at Burnley helped Klopp's Liverpool take shape

The Reds were beaten 2-0 on the German’s first trip to Turf Moor but he insisted there were positives to be taken from the game – and he was right

Jurgen Klopp will remember his first trip to Turf Moor, even if he’d much rather forget it.

It is a little over three years since the Liverpool boss led his side up the M6 and across the M65 to Burnley, and returned with his tail between his legs.

The Reds wore bright green shirts that day – ‘Toxic Thunder’ was the official marketing description – but delivered a performance with little to illuminate it. 

They lost 2-0, Burnley scoring twice in the first half, then watching with comfort as Liverpool huffed, puffed but, despite having 80 per cent possession and 26 shots at goal, failed to blow the Clarets’ house down. 

Afterwards a beaming Sean Dyche spoke about football’s “obsession” with possession, while Klopp became involved in a heated exchange with journalists who had quizzed him on his team’s display, railing at suggestions a dip into the transfer market was needed.

“If one game should change my mind, then I would be a real idiot,” he scoffed. “I know you all would buy a left-back, but a midfielder?! I love your job. We have the ball, but then we need to be the best fighters? Come on!”

This, remember, was the start of Klopp’s first full season at Anfield, and the Liverpool we witnessed that day was a long way from the one which will return to Turf Moor later today looking to make it four wins from four at the start of the new Premier League campaign.

Indeed, of the 11 who started in 2016, only four remain regular starters: James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino.

Simon Mignolet, Ragnar Klavan, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge have all gone, while Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne find themselves down the pecking order. 

We didn’t know it at the time, but at Burnley we were watching the first big evolution of Liverpool under Klopp, who had begun the process of turning the Reds into a team that could fight as well as flow.

They suffered in Lancashire, but decisions made there would set them on their way back to the big time.

Milner started at left-back, Klopp having lost faith in Alberto Moreno’s ability to deliver consistently, while Henderson was asked to drop into a deep-lying midfield role.

Wijnaldum, signed a month earlier from Newcastle, was to be converted into an orthodox midfielder, while Firmino was to be trusted as Klopp’s gegenpressing No.9, ahead of both Sturridge and Divock Origi.

Sadio Mane missed the game, but would bring the pace and dynamism we now take for granted with the Senegal star.

Little by little, his team was taking shape. “I saw a lot of good things,” Klopp said. “Life is not over.”

He was right. Liverpool went on a 15-game unbeaten run after that Burnley game and, by the end of the season, had secured a top-four finish and a return to the Champions League.

From there, and with signings such as Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson and Alisson Becker, they have been able to establish themselves among Europe’s elite.

Now, there are no questions over whether they can handle a team like Burnley, whether they are physically and mentally ready to deal with a trip to Turf Moor.

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They have dug deep to win on each of their last two visits, the most recent being a 3-1 come-from-behind victory in treacherous conditions last December.

“We have had all the weather at Burnley!” said Klopp on Friday. “Turf Moor is great. It’s a really tough place to go.

“It’s not planning a holiday when you go to Burnley; it’s planning the hardest work you can imagine. That’s what we will be ready for.”

There is no reason to doubt him. Burnley’s approach hasn’t changed, nor has the challenge they pose on home soil.

Klopp’s Liverpool, though, have come a long way since that chastening afternoon three years ago. They have another chance to show it on Saturday evening.

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