PREVIEW | Brighton v Liverpool: Henderson back in training ahead of Seagulls’ clash

JAMES NOBLE looks ahead to what we can expect to see in Saturday lunchtimes domestic encounter against Brighton at the Amex

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Captain Jordan Henderson could be in line for a return from injury as Jürgen Klopp’s side travel to the south coast on Saturday lunchtime in search of a fourth Premier League win in five.

After the lacklustre showing on Wednesday evening, Klopp will be looking for an immediate response from his side. With Tottenham playing Sunday afternoon, it is a chance for the Reds to return to the top of the table, whilst putting pressure on Mourinho’s side going into the London derby.

Defeat on the otherhand could leave Liverpool fifth by the end of the weekend, such is the enduring tightness of the table.

Context

The Reds were uncharacteristically flat against an impressive Atalanta at Anfield on Wednesday night and they will be keen to respond positively against Graham Potter’s men, despite the challenges posed by the turnaround of a little under 63 hours.

Sat in 16th place on nine points, the Seagulls’ league position probably does a disservice to their level of performance so far this term.


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Recent Anfield departure Adam Lallana has been one who’s added extra experience and technical talent to their ranks and they’ve been an exciting watch so far this season.

Last weekend, they saw their efforts rewarded with three points for only the second time in 2020/21 with an impressive 2-1 success at Villa Park.

With that in mind, Klopp and Liverpool will be all the more aware of the challenges a well-coached – and additionally confident – outfit could provide.

Team news

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Pictures from the AXA Training Centre on Thursday showed Henderson back on the training pitches with his teammates.

It was a sight that was additionally pleasant given an imminent return doesn’t yet look on the cards for Naby Keïta, Thiago Alcântara, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Xherdan Shaqiri.

Klopp expanded on the skipper’s situation in his Friday pre-match press conference.

“Hendo trained yesterday,” confirmed the German. “Parts of team training and then had his individual session so we have to see what we do with that.

“All the other players who played now they are still in recovery, so that’s how it is when we only have a few days in between. So we have to make late decisions.”

It wasn’t altogether clear, therefore, there could be fresh doubts over the fitness of some who featured on Wednesday. Either way, a degree of rotation can likely be expected.

Elsewhere, Virgil van Dijk (knee), Joe Gomez (knee) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (calf) are the defensive options who remain absent. While the former two aren’t expected to return any earlier than the final weeks of this season, it seems likely that the latter will be back in training in early-to-mid December. Nat Phillips will also be an option for this one, unlike midweek, due to the 23-year-old not being in the Champions League squad.

For Brighton, right wing-back Tariq Lamptey is suspended after somewhat unfortunately picking up two yellow cards in quick succession in the final moments at Villa Park. The 20-year-old has arguably been the hosts’ standout performer so far this term. His pace, directness and quality look set be a considerable miss for Potter’s side. Dutch international Joël Veltman appears the best bet to step in and, while he may not offer identical traits, he still represents a more than reliable option.

Lallana could also miss out. The 32-year-old set up Danny Welbeck’s opener against Villa but had to go off at half-time with a groin issue. One that means he remains a doubt for Saturday’s meeting at the American Express Community Stadium.

Potter said in his own press conference on Thursday that another impressive early-season performer – Belgian playmaker Leandro Trossard – should be back in contention, after an adductor problem had kept him out of the last two matches. He also explained that left wing-back Solly March was working off an ankle knock, but seemed optimistic that the 26-year-old would be fit for the weekend.

Likely lineups and tactics

Brighton and Hove Albion (3-4-2-1):

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1. Mathew Ryan; 3. Ben White, 5. Lewis Dunk (C), 4. Adam Webster; 34. Joël Veltman, 8. Yves Bissouma, 17. Steven Alzate, 20. Solly March; 13. Pascal Groß, 9. Neil Maupay; 18. Danny Welbeck

Substitutes:

7. Aaron Connolly, 11. Leandro Trossard, 14. Adam Lallana, 16. Alireza Jahanbakhsh, 23. Jason Steele (GK), 33. Dan Burn, 49. Jayson Molumby

Ben White could potentially step into Brighton’s midfield, as he did in the second-half at Villa Park – which would likely see Dan Burn come into the back-three – but Potter may prefer to keep together the triumvirate that he has used most in recent weeks.

If that is the case – and Veltman takes up the right wing-back role – Steven Alzate could come into midfield to make his start since October 26.

The Seagulls used a 3-1-4-2 last week against Villa’s 4-2-3-1 and they could utilise a similar shape this weekend, especially if the Reds opt for that formation.

A return to the kind of 3-4-2-1 they played at Goodison Park could be more likely, however, given the greater lateral coverage that can offer – something which is often viewed as important against Liverpool due to their full-back threat.

Pascal Groß, as a result, may take up the inside-right position he can be so dangerous in – adding a different threat to a Lamptey-less right-wing.

That front-three could also quite easily allow the set-up to become a 3-4-1-2, with Groß stationed behind Welbeck and Neil Maupay. An approach which could be additionally attractive given how well Atalanta executed it on Wednesday.

Liverpool (4-2-3-1):

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1. Alisson Becker; 76. Neco Williams, 47. Nathaniel Phillips, 3. Fabinho, 26. Andrew Robertson; 14. Jordan Henderson (C), 5. Georginio Wijnaldum; 20. Diogo Jota, 9. Roberto Firmino, 18. Takumi Minamino; 11. Mohamed Salah

Substitutes:

7. James Milner, 10. Sadio Mane, 13. Adrián (GK), 17. Curtis Jones, 21. Konstantinos Tsimikas, 27. Divock Origi, 32. Joël Matip

The Reds once again have an intriguing set of options, even with the numerous injury issues.

Phillips’ availability could allow Joël Matip to be rested, if Klopp wishes to avoid starting the Cameroonian three times in the space of six days.

Neco Williams, meanwhile, may have had a tough night on Wednesday but starting him once more could allow the Welsh international to build up both his match fitness and confidence – and prevent Milner from having to start three successive games of his own.

Which is part of the reason why 4-2-3-1 could be a tempting switch to make for Klopp.

It would mean only two of the regular midfield options need to play from the start, whilst it would give another chance to see how Liverpool’s attacking players perform in the shifted set-up.

Takumi Minamino hasn’t started a club game since the League Cup defeat to Arsenal on October 27, but giving him a start in a similar position – within a similar shape – to that which he used to play in for Salzburg, could be a beneficial approach for the individual and the collective.

Depending on how it is played, 4-2-3-1 is also an approach which could place less attacking responsibility on the shoulders of both Andy Robertson and – perhaps more importantly – Neco Williams.

There remain plenty of logistical questions to answer for Klopp and co – but their desire to find solutions means this could yet prove one of the most usefully rewarding spells of 2020/21.


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