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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Brighton, 09.21.11


There's usually two schools of thought after particularly awful matches---things could be so bad that some swear off the football for awhile, the things they've seen never to be unseen. Or there's the view that another match can't come quickly enough, regardless of whether or not it promises something better. If you're here, and not actively dissociating, I'm guessing you're part of the latter group, and thankfully play picks back up tomorrow.

"Play" is probably a generous way to term Liverpool's latest effort, but tomorrow hopefully promises to be a different affair. The struggles of the last two defeats, and more specifically the one at Spurs, can't be lost on Kenny Dalglish and his staff, and we can look to tomorrow as a chance for Liverpool to start to rectify the wrongs of the past few weeks.

And while the League Cup isn't typically the competition we'd place much emphasis on, tomorrow's opponents will demand Liverpool show the intent that went missing on Sunday. Brighton are two points from the top spot in the Championship after winning League One last season, and suffered only their first loss of the 2011-2012 season away to Leicester this past Saturday.

Gus Poyet's side had previously won six of their first eight matches, including twice thus far in cup competition on a pair of 1-0 home wins. Their opening round victory came against mid-table League Two side Gillingham, with forward Ashley Barnes scoring from the spot to secure their place in round two. The win over Sunderland came in slightly more dramatic fashion, as Craig Mackail-Smith headed home the winner in the 96th minute. Tomorrow they'll be without suspended left-back Marcos Painter, who'll be replaced in the matchday squad by assistant manager Maricio Taricco, but might have midfielder Will Hoskins and Vicente Rodriguez back to full fitness.

For Liverpool:

Who starts for Liverpool?

Flanagan Carragher Coates Robinson
Lucas Spearing
Maxi Suarez Bellamy

---Once again we find Daniel Agger amongst the wounded, as the Dane picked up at least one fractured rib and maybe a couple after slipping and landing awkwardly against Spurs. He joins Glen Johnson as the only confirmed absence through injury, although there's been no updates about the condition of Martin Kelly and Fabio Aurelio. Martin Skrtel and Charlie Adam will sit this one out as well, with each serving a one match ban for earning two yellows apiece.

---Steven Gerrard's the one to bring Liverpool back from the brink! Except they're not really on the brink, and I don't think he's going to start. There's really nobody we'd rather see after the weekend's ineptitude, especially with Liverpool severely lacking in take-a-match-by-the-scruff-of-the-neckability. But he can't really do that if he reinjures himself coming back too soon in an effort to save a club that doesn't really need saving.

---The injury to Agger and suspension for Skrtel mean there's not many choices at the back; Jon Flanagan and Jack Robinson featured in the win over Exeter City and are good bets to start tomorrow, and Sebastian Coates looks set to make his first start in a Liverpool shirt. Whether that's alongside Jamie Carragher or...someone else is up for debate, with Danny Wilson and Martin Kelly as the only other options.

---We know Charlie Adam won't play in central midfield, which leaves Jay Spearing, Jonjo Shelvey, Lucas, and, for some, Jordan Henderson as possibilities. I'm going for Lucas and Spearing deep, which proved to be an effective partnership for the run-in last season, even with the latter's supposed shortcomings. Shelvey could be likely as well, as he's yet to feature in league and made his only appearance of the season at Exeter last month.

---The front four is again up for grabs, but it's roundly expected that Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy will feature from the start. I'd like to see them joined by Maxi and Luis Suarez; having Bellamy and Maxi wide, with Kuyt and Suarez in some sort of pairing up top, could be a very different look, and one that could cause real problems for Brighton. I wouldn't be surprised to see Andy Carroll on the bench after all the running he did Sunday, joined by Jordan Henderson, whose struggles with inconsistency have been fairly consistent.

What's the most important factor for the Reds?

Bouncing back and getting a confident result is really the only way that Liverpool can avoid the sky from falling in the press, even if we know better. As Noel laid out with great clarity yesterday, there's a lot of questions that need answering, but that's not necessarily indicative of a crisis. So a strong result would avoid those pronouncements, which would be nice, and it would also usher back a decent amount of goodwill that Sunday's disappointment washed away.

Tomorrow night's match can be seen on Sky Sports 2 in England and on Fox Soccer Plus in the US, which again means that streams should be readily accessible. The sites we've linked to in the past few weeks have been fairly reliable, so we'll continue to run those until they're inevitable attacked by misguided government efforts to take down the most dangerous of criminals---people sharing TV programs. Those links will be accompanied later in the day by team sheets, and be sure to let us know if we've missed any ways to watch.

Hope you all have a nice rest of the day, and we'll be back late tonight/early tomorrow ahead of kickoff.

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