Brighton and Hove Albion v Liverpool: Match preview
As Brighton and Hove Albion host Liverpool on Sunday, both sides will be looking to return to winning ways on the south coast, following contrasting defeats last weekend.
Despite a strong start to the campaign, winning five out of their seven matches, Brighton suffering defeats to West Ham United and recent drubbing at the hands of Aston Villa has certainly raised some eyebrows.
While a sixth place standing in the league is testament to one of the most well run clubs in the country, Roberto De Zerbi will surely have some concerns that only Bournemouth, Burnley and Sheffield United have conceded more goals.
His high risk, high reward play style, that involves overloading their opposition in their half, leaves players who are behind the ball isolated and exposed to transitions. This, coupled with Brighton’s centre backs, who struggle for pace, creates an opportunistic target for attackers who will look to enforce 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2 situations.
Furthermore, for the first time in the club’s history, De Zerbi’s men will have to cope with the rigour of European football midweek, testing their strength in depth and intensity.
However, Seagulls fans will be buoyed by the stunning fightback displayed by their side away at Marseille, after going 2-0 down inside the first 20 minutes. Second half goals from Pascal Gross and Joao Pedro were enough to secure their first ever point in European competition.
Left-back and fantasy football favourite Pervis Estupinan has been ruled out for at least a month through injury, while former Liverpool men Adam Lallana and James Milner are both doubts for Sunday’s game.
It would be considerably naïve for any side to underestimate the potent threat posed by Brighton, but it is clear that sub-standard pressing will only hinder the club’s remarkable trajectory over the past few seasons.
Liverpool’s unbeaten start to the campaign ended in the most agonising fashion, as Joel Matip’s own goal in injury time gifted Tottenham Hotspur a 2-1 victory.
However, it was the “significant human error” of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) that stole the headlines, with the requested release of the VAR audio during the match, only adding to the controversy.
Nonetheless, Liverpool provided the perfect response, as they consigned Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise to a 2-0 defeat at Anfield in the Europa League on Thursday. Far from their best, the Reds had to endure some late pressure from the visitors, before Diogo Jota slotted in the second goal, adding to Ryan Gravenberch’s first for the club.
Jurgen Klopp’s half-time substitutions involved the removal of Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Wataru Endo for Alexis Mac Allister, Curtis Jones and Luis Diaz. Liverpool’s strength in depth translated into their relatively comfortable victory and Klopp will be relieved that his players are fresh for Sunday’s game.
The victory however, could have been simplified had Nunez not missed a golden opportunity from Salah’s cross, failing to fire into an open goal. The chaos that has accompanied him since his arrival from Benfica last summer still remains. His puzzling ability to capitalize on the impossible chances yet somehow squander the most basic opportunities, has shown Liverpool fans that in spite of his progression, he is not yet the finished product.
A Premier League record of four red cards in the first seven games of the season has proved to be an unwelcome hindrance to Liverpool’s campaign, thus far. Consequently, the Reds will be without Diogo Jota as well as Curtis Jones, who will begin serving a three-match ban. Cody Gakpo has also been ruled out against the Seagulls, following a knee injury sustained against Spurs.
Klopp will be cautious in trying to avoid playing into De Zerbi’s game plan, which has proven successful against ‘big six’ sides in the past, but will want all three points to keep the pressure on Manchester City, as well as Arsenal and Spurs.
This week is turning out to be one of emotional reunions for midfielder Alexis Mac Allister, who recently reunited with his brother, Kevin, in their Europa League clash on Thursday. On Sunday, he will return to the Amex Stadium, where he became the club’s first World Cup winner and secured their first ever European finish.
De Zerbi is unbeaten against Klopp with Brighton in all competitions, and already has the scalps of Newcastle United and Manchester United this season; Liverpool would be a welcome addition. While there was uncertainty as to whether the Reds could contest the title this season, a win on the South Coast would surely have Pep Guardiola looking over his shoulder.
Where to watch: Sky Sports from 1pm (BST)
Score prediction: 1-3