Belfast Telegraph

Dyche shares Rodgers striker pain

Burnley manager Sean Dyche feels Brendan Rodgers' pain over the loss of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge after struggling to cope without his own star strikers.

Liverpool's slump in form this season has been down in large part to the absence of their 'SAS' pairing, who shared 55 goals in the side's thrilling 2013/14 title tilt.

With Suarez sold to Barcelona in the summer and Sturridge out since August due to a series of injuries, the Reds side who visit Turf Moor on Boxing Day will be a very different proposition to the one that routinely terrorised defences.

But Dyche believes criticism of Rodgers is misguided, having laboured earlier this season without his own key men Sam Vokes and Danny Ings.

They scored 47 goals between them in the SkyBet Championship promotion campaign, Vokes with 21 of them before suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in March.

Ings went on to be named as the division's player of the season but missed five weeks of action this autumn, during which the Clarets remained winless in the top flight.

It was an experience that has shaped Dyche's view on Rodgers.

"He's missing two massive players - Suarez and Sturridge, who in certain games last year were unmarkable and unplayable," said Dyche.

"That has got to be a loss for any manager.

"We're saying, even at Burnley, that we were missing Vokes and Ings, and they are still learning to be Suarez and Sturridge-type players.

"So if we were missing them, it's fair to say Brendan is missing those two.

"That's why the world demands 'can we find a striker?'. It changes the whole view of your team. Vokes and Ings were incredible last year and made the team even more effective than what it might have been without them.

"Liverpool look a different unit without those two. Are they as good? The question marks are out there, but strikers make the difference."

Vokes scored twice for Burnley's development squad against Blackpool on Monday and is pushing to make his first-team return as a substitute against Liverpool.

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli returns from suspension but will only be on the bench.

Fellow forward Fabio Borini is banned after his sending-off last weekend against Arsenal while midfielder Joe Allen has not yet recovered from a knee injury.

Defenders Dejan Lovren and Glen Johnson (both groin) and Jon Flanagan (knee) are still not fit.

Rodgers insists he has not lost faith in goalkeeper Simon Mignolet despite dropping the Belgium international.

The 26-year-old was told to expect an "indefinite" period on the sidelines after being left out of the team to face Manchester United on December 14 following much criticism of his form this season.

While Rodgers has not told the Belgian when he can expect a recall, he expects him to return a better goalkeeper when he does, having spent plenty of time analysing his performances.

"Simon's response has been fantastic," said Rodgers, who admitted he had to take Mignolet out of the spotlight to allow him a cooling off period to reassess his game.

"People would think coming out of the team would have a negative effect but he has been outstanding and his training has been good and we're analysing where he can improve.

"That time coming out of the team sometimes gives you that reflective period that you don't have when you're in the thick of it and it can benefit you.

"I've seen a real positive reaction from him. John (Achterberg), who's our excellent goalkeeping coach, and myself sit down with him, study his game and look at the areas we feel the improvements can be made.

"Hopefully when he returns he'll have gained from that time out and becomes a better keeper for it.

"We've seen it in the past with other keepers at other clubs - sometimes that little period out can really help. I'm confident that'll be the case with Simon.

"I haven't lost any belief in him - he's still an outstanding goalkeeper.

"I'm sure when the time comes for him to come back in, he'll be a better goalkeeper for it."

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