5 talking points as Liverpool move into the top four with easy win vs Burnley

Liverpool moved into the top four with just one game remaining of the season with a straightforward 3-0 victory over Burnley.

Just before half-time Roberto Firmino gave the Reds the lead as he coolly converted from Andy Robertson’s low cut-back.

And Nat Phillips made it two with a header on 52 minutes with a header from a Sadio Mane cross to ease their nerves.

Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rounded off the scoring late on with a powerful drive as the Reds took a giant leap towards Champions League qualification.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are now level on points with Leicester but three above them on goal difference, and host Crystal Palace on the final day of the season while the Foxes take on Tottenham.

Here are five talking points from Turf Moor…

Liverpool close to salvaging season

Liverpool are close to sealing a place in the top four

At one point earlier this season there looked to be a genuine possibility that Liverpool could miss out on European football for the first time since 2011.

Their defeat to tonight’s opponents at Anfield in January started a woeful run of six home losses in a row, and Klopp’s team looked completely drained of confidence and energy.

To their immense credit, however, they have managed to turn things around, and this easy win was their sixth in their last eight Premier League games.

The result puts them firmly in the driving seat for a top four finish, and although it has been far from the campaign they dreamed of after their sensational 2019-20 season, considering the circumstances qualifying for Champions League football will be seen as a success by Klopp.

It will allow them to make the changes they need to in the squad this summer and go again refreshed and re-invigorated in August.

They are not quite there yet, but Liverpool are on the verge, and you would not have backed them to be a few months ago.

Firmino’s fine form continues

Roberto Firmino scored at a crucial time for Liverpool
Roberto Firmino scored at a crucial time for Liverpool

Firmino has come in for plenty of criticism this season, with many suggesting the Brazilian should be replaced in the summer.

Klopp has continued to stay faithful to his No.9, however, and the 29-year-old has rewarded his manager in recent weeks, creating an assist in the 2-0 win against Southampton and scoring twice at Old Trafford in the 4-2 victory over Manchester United.

Tonight he was impressive again, linking up well with his midfielders and holding up the ball well.

And he bagged another important goal just when Liverpool were looking frustrated at not having grabbed an opener with a superb run to convert from Robertson’s cross.

Firmino may still not be the most prolific forward around, but it seems almost certain he will continue to be an important part of the first-team next season, and will always be one of Klopp’s favourites.

On the basis of tonight’s showing you can understand why despite his occasional anonymous showings.

Special moment for Phillips

Nat Phillips scored a crucial header for Liverpool
Nat Phillips scored a crucial header for Liverpool

Amid Liverpool’s struggles in the centre-back position this season, Nat Phillips has emerged as an unlikely cult hero among Reds fans.

The 24-year-old has massively improved in recent weeks, and enjoyed a moment to remember tonight when he scored his first goal for the club with a stooping header in the second-half put his side firmly in control of the match, while he was also named Man of the Match.

Phillips’ first-team minutes will no doubt decrease once the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez return next season, but his contributions in the current campaign will not be forgotten by Jurgen Klopp.

The former Bolton prospect has proved himself more than capable of stepping up and performing at the very highest level, and if he is not fancied by Liverpool in the future he could certainly be a useful signing for another Premier League outfit.

Williams’ long ball struggles

Rhys Williams struggled to deal with long balls at times
Rhys Williams struggled to deal with long balls at times

On the other side of the coin, Phillips’ fellow inexperienced centre-back Rhys Williams found it difficult to adjust to Burnley’s long ball approach at times, and he was caught out on a number of occasions.

Jamie Carragher called it on commentary for Sky Sports in the first half when he said: “Liverpool have got a big problem when the ball goes down the left channel over Rhys Williams’ head.

“He’s got to be more aware of where players are. His starting position has got to be better and he’s got to react a lot quicker.”

Ultimately it was not punished, but a better side may have made him pay, and it is an area of his game which he needs to work on if he is to improve as a defender.

Salah unable to move ahead in Golden Boot race

It was not Mohamed Salah's night
It was not Mohamed Salah’s night

After Harry Kane drew a blank in Tottenham’s 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa in the early kick-off, Mohamed Salah had a big chance to move ahead of the England striker in the race for the Golden Boot, with the two currently tied on 22 goals.

The Egyptian had a pretty quiet evening, however, and was largely stifled and dealt with well by Burnley’s strong defensive duo of James Tarkowski and Ben Mee.

While Salah’s priority against Palace at the weekend will obviously be ensuring Liverpool get the job done and finish fourth, in the back of his mind there is no doubt he will be desperate to get his hands on the Golden Boot for a third time.

And don’t be surprised to see him slightly more selfish than usual, particularly if his side go a couple of goals up.

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