Liverpool currently sit four points ahead of nearest rivals Manchester City, but the Reds prepare to face Brighton knowing three points is a must, writes @sam0007ster.
It’s a must win. A four point gap must become seven. Liverpool must pile all the pressure back onto City and Spurs.
Brighton away presents Jürgen Klopp’s men with the perfect opportunity to bounce back from back-to-back defeats.
The mood is summarised perfectly by vice-captain James Milner: “Back-to-back defeats isn’t really good enough for us but you have blips in a season. It’s not something you want, especially at Liverpool, we know what’s expected. We have to make sure we bounce back and look at where we can get better.”
Whatever happens, the Reds will still lead the way at the top of the Premier League, but they cannot allow momentum to swing in Manchester City’s favour.
Liverpool made light work of this fixture last term. The Seagulls fell to a 5-1 drumming as a front three of Philippe Coutinho, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino reaped havoc.
This time round, however, the Amex has already proven to be a tricky place to go. Manchester Utd and Arsenal both dropped points earlier this campaign, whilst Spurs and Chelsea have been pushed mighty close.
When Chris Hughton and Co. travelled to Anfield back in August, it took a clever finish from Salah to unlock a defiant Brighton back-line. In the dying embers, a fine save from Alisson Becker ensured Liverpool came away with all three points.
Yet the odds are rightly stacked in Liverpool’s favour. The Red Men have lost just one league game all season — albeit last time out — whilst Brighton sit 13th having only won one in six.
Much has been made of Klopp’s defensive issues this week and rightly so. Dejan Lovren took an early bath during Liverpool’s FA Cup exit to Wolves on Monday. The Croatian limped off with a tight hamstring inside five minutes.
Klopp revealed in his pre-match press conference that centre-half Joël Matip has returned to first-team training after a shoulder injury. However, it is unlikely Matip will be rushed back into the firing line so soon.
Joe Gomez (leg) remains unavailable as he continues his rehabilitation. Consequently, Liverpool are left with only one fully fit senior centre half — Dutchman Virgil Van Dijk.
16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever looked incredibly capable on his debut at the Molineux but is not expected to follow that up with a starting berth this Saturday. Midfielder Fabinho, instead, is set to fill the void.
Adam Lallana remains out with a minor knock, whilst captain Jordan Henderson is also said to be a doubt.
For the Telegraph, Chris Bascombe revealed on Thursday night that the Englishman is struggling with a calf problem. Hence, one of Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keïta will surely step in.
Shaqiri perhaps warrants the nod over Keïta. The Swiss international has six goals and two assists thus far and has proven a shrewd acquisition. Keïta, on the other hand, has shown glimpses of promise but Klopp may base his choice on form.
Man City play Wolves at the Etihad on Monday night and Liverpool must ensure there is a proverbial mountain to climb. This no time for a blip — win, win, win must be the resounding message.
Hold your nerve Reds…
Sam’s predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): Allison; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Milner; Shaqiri, Mané, Firmino; Salah.
K.O: Saturday 3pm GMT