By Ritchie Slack (@Slack_9)Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Liverpool return to domestic league action this weekend, with the early Saturday kick-off not coming soon enough for the Reds. During midweek a lacklustre, tired and underwhelming performance saw Liverpool succumb to a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Atalanta in the Champions League, which, given the amount of injuries Liverpool have currently, shouldn’t come as a surprise. It was the first time The Reds have lost a home game by more than one goal in 137 matches, a testament to fortress Anfield and the revolution Jurgen Klopp has created. The injuries Liverpool have sustained ever since the return of the Premier League was always going to catch up with them sooner or later, and with the youngsters and fringe players making up most of the team, Atalanta was always going to be a thorny and tricky test.
But, it is the past, and onwards we look to the future and to the weekend, and whilst the CL game was nothing to write home about, at least there were (seemingly) no more injuries for Klopp to report on… Liverpool will undoubtedly want to rectify the midweek performance and return back to the apex of the Premier League table, which can be achieved with a win over the Seagulls at the Amex. Liverpool’s (supposed) title rivals Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur face off against each other this weekend, so three points here would be vital since points will be dropped by one or both sides vying for Liverpool’s title.
Jurgen Klopp will have superstar Mo Salah to recall to the squad following his isolation period, and Trent Alexander-Arnold is close to a return in defence, but Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk remain long term absentees. Expect the relentless and tiresome James Milner to play at right back, unless youngster Neco Williams is in for another start following his 90 minute match in the week (writer’s side note: James Milner just needs to play as a striker to have completed all positions played outfield for Liverpool). The magnificent Fabinho made his return in midweek and we would expect him to partner Joel Matip at CB, unless he is being moved to his midfield position with Rhys Williams having a decent run of form.
Skipper and leader Jordan Henderson has been in full training since Thursday for Liverpool, so we would expect to see him in the squad in some capacity, and as always it will be a huge boost for Liverpool to see their captain back in the team. Thiago Alcantara and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are a doubt for Jurgen Klopp’s side in the midfield, but Naby Keita, who was forced off last week in the 3-0 win against Leicester, is out. Keita, who had a solid game before being forced off, has no time frame of his return (as of writing this preview) but must be getting frustrated with his stop-start Liverpool career: a fit Naby Keita would be a deadly weapon in a full season, and here is to wishing him a swift and strong recovery! Thiago remains somewhat of a mystery due to the fact Liverpool have remained tightlipped about how long the Spanish star is out for, or what injury he sustained in that horror tackle from Richarlison six weeks ago. I live in the hope that he will turn up one day soon and play unexpectedly and unannounced, like a long-lost son returning home without forewarning. Thiago returning would be the Christmas present we all long for.
Liverpool are full of riches up top, with a choice of all of their attacking options fit and ready to play. Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Taki Minamino and Divock Origi all featured in midweek, and perhaps Klopp opts to play four of them to break down what will be a stubborn Brighton defence. Liverpool have the second-best goal scoring tally in the PL this season and are now the only team in the division to have scored in every game they have played, you would expect that record to stretch further after this weekend with Jota, Salah, Mane and Firmino all fit and firing. Salah has registered five goals and three assists against Brighton in his six previous PL games against Potter’s Brighton, and after a prolonged rest on the side-lines, the Egyptian king will be wanted to extend that run of form further.
As for Brighton, they face the reality of having (arguably) their best player in Tariq Lamptey suspended for this match, giving the Liverpool full backs an easier game than what may have been with his inclusion. The youngster has been in brilliant form since joining The Seagulls and he will be a big miss this Saturday. Another absentee is the former Liverpool man, Adam Lallana, who is likely to miss what would have been his first game against the Reds since leaving in the summer with a groin injury. Leandro Trossard is expected to be fit again, as is Solly March, Davy Propper and Aaron Connelly. Former Manchester United man Danny Welbeck will be looking for another start in attack for Brighton after scoring against Villa last week.
Brighton have only won once at home in their last eight games and have only won two of their last seventeen; but victory over the Reds would see them accomplish back to back wins for the first time in a year. Brighton have never bested Liverpool in a competitive fixture in the top fight, and their last league win over Liverpool came in 1961 in the Second Division, a brave man would bet that Brighton can do the same 49 years later.
Liverpool are coming off the back of a defeat, and Liverpool very rarely lose back to back games; with key players returning to the squad things look bleak for Brighton. The Liverbird, whose mythical journeys see them haunting the local shoreline of Liverpool, may just haunt the Seagulls shore of Brighton this Saturday and see their Red Army return to Merseyside with three points intact.
Up the Reds, YNWA.