By Padraig O’Callaghan – @AGameOfTwoHalfz
Liverpool travel to the Amex Stadium to face Brighton and Hove Albion as Jurgen Klopp looks to see his Liverpool team return to winning ways in the Premier League.
Brighton, who sit a respectable 13th position in the league, have gone on from strength to strength since last year.
Chris Hughton has made the Amex somewhat of a fortress for a mid-table sides standard, they have the best record at home outside of the top six and have taken four points from Arsenal and Manchester United.
Liverpool go into the game on the back of consecutive defeats against Man City and Wolves. The defeat against Wolves can be disregarded giving the line-up that Jurgen Klopp selected, three players below the age of 18 and many misfits filling in the gaps allowing first teamers much needed rest.
Brighton are in a good vain of form now, losing one of their past five matches, they have picked up impressive wins against Bournemouth in the cup and Everton in the League. Draws against West ham and Arsenal are results that can be deemed as good results also.
Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy and goalkeeper Mat Ryan have been superb this season, even though they have conceded 29. The two central defenders have popped up with important goals while Ryan has been arguably the best goalkeeper outside of the top six – crucially, he will miss this one as he is on Asian Cup duty with Australia.
Glenn Murray has eight goals to his name, the 35-year-old started the season in excellent form but has dropped off in recent weeks.
Jurgen Klopp will want to get back to winning ways as quickly as possible, losses against City and Wolves can disrupt the good form of the squad. Brighton are the perfect team to bounce back, they are a team that are likely not to sit back at home and will attack in numbers.
The manager seemed to want to get out of the FA Cup as quickly as possible, when Divock Origi levelled for the Reds’ Klopp didn’t even muster a smile which shows his intentions are elsewhere and rightly so.
One positive for Jurgen Klopp was the emergence of Ki-Jana Hoever, replacing Dejan Lovren in the fifth minute, the Dutch man impressed in what was a very poor defence.
Both Mignolet and Camacho did the 16-year-old no favours often putting him under unnecessary pressure which often affected the centre backs passing. Hoever did show glimpses of quality like that of his fellow country man Virgil van Dijk, when afforded time on the ball he often picked the right pass and dribbled out on defence on a handful of occasion.
There has been calls for the young man to be partnered along van Dijk, in past seasons this would have been likely but due to Liverpool’s position in the table, Jurgen Klopp will probably play it safe.
Brighton have used a 4-5-1 formation in recent games. Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk should keep their place in defence ahead of goalkeeper David Button. Martin Montoya and Gaetan Bong will likely provide width from the full back positions. Regular Bernardo is out with injury.
A midfield quintet of Solly March, Pascal Gross, Dale Stephens, Davy Propper and Jurgen Locadia are all hard-working players and will look to make it difficult for Liverpool to play their usual passing game. Pascal Gross, who has been linked with a move to Liverpool in recent weeks will be the most dangerous of the five.
Stephens and Propper will sit deep to allow the German to have a free role and take up positions in dangerous areas on the pitch. Glenn Murray will prove to be a danger high up in the pitch, especially since Klopp has only one fit centre back available.
That problem will provide a real conundrum for Jurgen Klopp, one of our central midfielders will have to play alongside Virgil van Dijk in defence. Fabinho will likely get the nod ahead of Gini Wijnaldum to be used as a make shift centre-back.
Fabinho played at centre back for the loss against Wolves, while the Brazilian did nothing wrong in his new auxiliary role, he just didn’t seem comfortable playing in such a deep role. One thing that will go for the No.3 is his aerial prowess, which will be handy when coming up against Murray. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold will complete the back line.
With Jordan Henderson also facing a late fitness test. Naby Keita should be partnered alongside Wijnaldum in a double pivot. Keita played in a pivot at RB Leipzig and we should see the better side of him we have seen in patches this season.
That would leave only four real contenders for the remaining for spots in the line-up, Shaqiri, Salah, Mane and Firmino will look to continue their continued god form when all four are on the pitch. One worry is that if the starting XI fail to click and tactics aren’t effective, a lack of quality on the bench may prove to be our downfall.
Danger man: Pascal Gross
Pascal Gross has impressed in the Premier League after arriving from Ingolstadt from the Bundesliga for a measly £4m pound. Creating 79 chances for his team-mates last season. Christian Eriksen created 85 having played 300 minutes more.
Gross also provides a wicked delivery from dead-ball situations, so fouls close to the box and corners will be a goalscoring opportunity for players like Murray, Duffy and Dunk.
The German hasn’t been as effective this season, registering only one assist in 10 games for Chris Hughtons side. He has been linked with a move to Liverpool and would be a welcome addition in my eyes.
He would knowingly come here as a rotation player, but has all the qualities to excel under Klopp, he his excellent in possession and as mentioned before has a killer final ball. If we can get him for around the same price for which we got Xherdan Shaqiri, which I think we could. It would be a no-brainer.
Fabinho in defence – With only one recognised fit central defender at the club, Jurgen Klopp will likely choose Fabinho to fill in for this game. Playing in defence is nothing new for Fabinho, he started off his career as a right back and still plays at right back for Brazil.
Fabinho looked uncomfortable playing in centre-back, but Virgil van Dijk would look uncomfortable when laying alongside two teenagers and two clowns. Having higher quality players around him will greatly benefit the Brazilian.
Having van Dijk next to him and a fellow country man behind, Fabinho should have no problem filling in for our injured centre backs. While we may lose his presence in midfield, Gini and Keita should be more than enough to fill in.
Last five games between the clubs
21/09/2011 – Brighton 1-2 Liverpool League Cup
19/01/2012 – Liverpool 6-1 Brighton F.A. Cup
01/12/2017 – Brighton 1-5 Liverpool Premier League
13/05/2018 – Liverpool 4-0 Brighton Premier League
25/08/2018 – Liverpool 1-0 Brighton Premier League
Liverpool will look to open a seven-point gap on Manchester City. They can do so with a victory over their opposition, putting the pressure on their rivals ahead of their match against Wolves.
Our next five games are all winnable and should see Liverpool get maximum points collected, during the course of those five games, Manchester City welcome Wolves, Arsenal and Chelsea to the Etihad.
The next five match-days will probably define Liverpool’s run in for the end of the season, Man City are likely to drop points in their next five games, so it is very important for Liverpool to regain the form they showed prior to the New Year.
Brighton are a tough outfit and won’t make it easy for Liverpool, they rarely concede more than two goals in a game thanks to their excellent defence. Since the start of last season, they have conceded four or more only three time – Liverpool being two of those. It’s unlikely we will score four again but should still win due to the gulf in quality.
It will be interesting to see how Naby Keita performs in his natural position, he has played in central midfield twice before, against West Ham and Burnley which were two of his better games for the club.
I’m backing Liverpool to win and kick off another long unbeaten run. Mane and Shaqiri will both play important roles in this match, coming inside disrupting Brighton’s five-man midfield.
Final Score: Brighton 1 (Duffy) – 2 Liverpool (Salah, Mané)