BRIGHTON VS LIVERPOOL
| Saturday, January 12th |
Premier League | Amex Stadium
3:00 PM GMT /10:00 AM EST
A whole lot of pixels have been employed this week for the purpose of ruminating on Liverpool’s defensive injury crisis and I’m happy to add to it. Joe Gomez and Joël Matip were already absent from training and then on Monday against Wolverhampton Dejan Lovren decided to let his hamstring pull him off the pitch and into the treatment room.
That has left Virgil van Dijk as the only fit centre-half at Melwood ahead of Liverpool’s journey to face Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday. Fabinho is likely to be moved into the backline to partner Van Dijk but with the big Dutchman organising alongside him, Fabinho should look far more comfortable in the position than he did at Wolves.
Brighton are unbeaten in their last three matches, drawing West Ham 2-2 at the London Stadium last week. Chris Hughton’s team also drew at home to Arsenal, equalising after an early goal by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and beat Everton 1-0 at the Amex.
The Seagulls will hope to capitalise on Liverpool’s defensive woes but history suggests an upset is an unlikely scenario. Hughton has not registered a single point against Liverpool as a manager, Brighton have never beaten Liverpool in front of their home crowd, and Mohamed Salah knows how to work his way through Brighton’s defense, having scored two and assisted two in his three matches against the south coast club.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keita, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané
Hughton has his own unavailable players for Saturday’s match. Jose Izquierdo, an attacking player, is out with a knee injury and starting goalkeeper Mat Ryan is off playing in the Asian Cup with Australia. With a second string keeper, Brighton will be far more worried over their goal’s vulnerability than Liverpool.
Alisson will return to the side after Simon Mignolet’s cameo at Wolves this week. Klopp’s defense will include Fabinho but should otherwise look familiar. And Liverpool’s attacking threat should be spearheaded by none other than Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mané.
It’s the midfield as always that provides room for speculation. Gini Wijnaldum is a lock in the starting eleven for me. He’s the Gini. Beyond him selection gets tricky. Jordan Henderson could return but the captain hasn’t trained this week and is relying on a late fitness test to prove his availability. James Milner played a match to forget against Wolverhampton but could bounce back with a solid showing in this weekend’s midfield in place of Henderson.
Perhaps the biggest debate would be whether to round out the midfield with Xherdan Shaqiri or Naby Keita. I wouldn’t expect Klopp to use both of them from the start but I’ve been wrong before.
A match against Brighton maybe shouldn’t feel as crucial as this one does but the defensive injuries at Liverpool have put this one under the spotlight. Beyond Brighton lies the good news of healthy players returning. In the present, Liverpool must play with the mentality of a title-winning side and prove they can cope and win even with the imperfectness in the team.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jürgen Klopp: “So far our season has been really good and now we need to carry on. Two weeks ago everyone was so excited about the distance between (us and City). Now we have lost 2 games, not nice but not a real problem.”
Chris Hughton: “I think Liverpool are favourites but I couldn’t tell you who will win it. And certainly I wouldn’t put money on it.”
Referee: Kevin Friend Assistants: Simon Long, Richard West Fourth official: Roger East
Kickoff is set for 3:00 PM GMT/10:00 AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.