Liverpool welcome 12th-placed Brighton and Hove Albion to Anfield on Saturday as they look to extend their unbeaten start to the new Premier League season to 14 games.
Liverpool played in Europe during the week and had the chance to secure a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League, but could only manage a draw. Dejan Lovren levelled for the Reds after Dries Mertens put the Italians ahead.
Brighton are a rejuvenated side under Graham Potter. They look a much better side then last season and they are not afraid to play football against the tougher teams in the league.
Liverpool’s draw against Napoli on Wednesday meant that they will have to play a strong side in their last game to secure progression from the Champions League group stage. The performance on the night was not great at all. The midfield lacked an attacking outlet which made Roberto Firmino drop much deeper making him less effective.
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To make matters worse, Fabinho went off halfway through the first half with an ankle injury, early indications suggest that our No.3 will be out for at least four weeks. This is not ideal with our busy fixture schedule and with Naby Keïta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain playing limited minutes this season.
In the league they scored another late winner as they overcame a dogged Crystal Palace. Sadio Mané gave the Reds an early lead in the second half. Liverpool’s chances were few and far between but Firmino fluffed his lines when given the opportunity to extend Liverpool’s lead. Wilfried Zaha looked to have made Firmino pay for his earlier miss when he levelled late on, but the Brazilian redeemed himself and scored yet another late winner for Liverpool.
Brighton have lost their last two games, against Leicester City and Manchester United. However, they did win three of the four games before that. They picked up some big scalps in those four games, registering wins against Tottenham (3-0) and Everton (3-2).
They defended resolutely against Leicester, though the visitors did take a deserved lead in the 64th minute. The Foxes did what they do best and countered from a corner, which resulted in Ayoze Pérez having an easy tap in. Jamie Vardy put the game beyond Brighton when he converted a late penalty.
Against Manchester United they where beaten by the better team despite having the majority of possession. Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay gave the home side a two-goal lead before half time. Both goals were quite fortuitous — the first was deflected in while the second was bundled in following pinball in the penalty box.
Lewis Dunk pulled one back for Brighton, heading in from a corner. It proved nothing more than a consolation as Marcus Rashford restored United’s two-goal lead just a couple of minutes later.
Fabinho is the Liverpool player with a fresh injury, with first-choice defensive midfielder will miss the majority if not all of the winter schedule. Gini Wijnaldum is likely to be his replacement in the No.6 position. The Netherlands international often excels when given the role at the base of our midfield.
Joël Matip is also still unavailable but Xherdan Shaqiri could make his first appearance since his long injury.
Trent Alexander-Arnold will be the only change in defence from the one that played Wednesday, as our attacking influence against Napoli was noticeably stifled without our first choice right back on the pitch.
Gini Wijnaldum will probably play in the deepest midfield position, though Adam Lallana is also in contention. Jordan Henderson will be joined by one of Naby Keïta or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain further forward.
Brighton have a strong side to pick from. Due to the resolute performance against Leicester and with a full week’s rest, I doubt Graham Potter will make many changes.
Left-back Bernardo and pacy winger José Izquierdo are definitely out, while Solly March and Aaron Connolly are doubts through groin issues.
Mathew Ryan will play in goal. The Australian isn’t the tallest so he could be targeted from set-pieces. A back five could consist of Martín Montoya, Shane Duffy, Adam Webster, Lewis Dunk and Steven Alzate.
Davy Pröpper, Dale Stephens and Aaron Mooy will crowd the centre of the pitch even more which will make it difficult for Firmino to find space between the defence and attack.
Neil Maupay will be the Seagulls’ main goal threat, while Pascal Groß has also proven he can find the back of the net since joining the south coast side.
Liverpool should have too much for Brighton despite the injury to Fabinho. The Brazilian’s absence could see a change in formation with no real out-and-out replacement available. Switching to 4-2-3-1 will give the likes of Shaqiri and Keïta the chance to play in their more natural positions.
Brighton have played well this season and may cause Liverpool more problems then they might expect. That said, when up against the teams close to the top of the table this season they haven’t had much joy.
Liverpool need to put in a convincing performance after failing to hit the heights of last season. After so many late goals in the past few weeks it would be nice to enjoy the last ten minutes with a comfortable lead.
I think the Reds will win by a couple of goals, but the game will not be straightforward.
Predicted final score: Liverpool 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion