Liverpool v Brighton and Hove Albion
Referee: Kevin Friend
It’s the final weekend of the Premier League season, not many sides have anything to play for but Liverpool still have a job to do if they want to confirm top four and ultimately Champions League football next season.
With the incredible stunt Huddersfield managed to pull off at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, confirming their own place in next season’s Premier League, they also gave Liverpool a much easier job to do when they host Brighton on Sunday afternoon. A draw will be enough here to see Liverpool end the race for top four, providing Chelsea don’t manage to turn around a 16 goal difference variance on the day. To reiterate, Chelsea would need to beat Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle by 17 goals or more and Liverpool would have to draw, I’ll eat my hat if we see something as ridiculous as this. So, as long as Liverpool aren’t beaten, which no side has managed at Anfield this season in the league, Chelsea will fall short.
Liverpool have faltered recently and have only won one in their last five games across all competitions. Surprising, as they had been in top form and looked to see the Premier League season out with ease and a top four position finalised. Draws against West Brom and Stoke helped Chelsea catch up and with the 1-0 result at Stamford Bridge meant Chelsea were right back in the race for top four and pressuring Spurs and Liverpool for a spot. Huddersfield came along and eased that pressure, thankfully (as a Liverpool fan myself!).
Brighton on the other hand are coming off the back of a 3-1 defeat to the league champions, Manchester City, on Wednesday night. Brighton played fairly well for the first hour or so before tiring and eventually conceding the final nail in the coffin on the 72nd minute to see them go 3-1 down.
Brighton sit in 14th place on 40 points, clear of relegation and will be content with the season they have had for sure. They have had some great results along the way, more notably against Manchester Utd (1-0), Spurs (1-1) and Arsenal (2-1) but these were all at their home ground. Away from home has proved more difficult for them with only two wins in 17 matches. More importantly, and this is where their issue seems to lie, they have only managed to score in seven of these away games. The two games they did win away from home were also at the end of October and start of November which sees them on a run of 12 games without a win on the road, which only includes four draws.
Liverpool on the other hand are unbeaten at Anfield in the league this season. They’ve racked up 11 wins in their 17 home league games and when they have won, it has mostly been by two or more goals (8/11). This bodes well for their final game of the season where a draw would be enough to guarantee a top four finish. They have managed to struggle in some cases when playing lower table opposition as Stoke and West Brom both managed goalless draws at Anfield this season. Liverpool’s final home game in front of their loyal fans will be a good one and also an emotional one. The fans will pack out the stadium ensuring they give the players a deserved send off before the Reds travel to Kiev in the weeks to come, for a season and history defining matchup against Real Madrid. It’ll be the majority of fans last chance to show their support for the team they love and for the season they’ve seen develop at Anfield. The players will thank the fans as they normally do at the end of the game, bringing their families onto the pitch in celebration, a token gesture the fans deserve at a minimum.
The Head to Head
Liverpool have never lost or drawn to Brighton in their history, playing them earlier on in the season and winning 1-5 away from home. Coutinho was a huge factor in this win, assisting two and scoring one. Brighton did manage to keep Salah at bay which can’t be said for many teams this season. Prior to this one, the sides also met in the Carabao Cup in 2012 and 2011, which saw Liverpool win both matches 6-1 and 1-2 respectively. The good news for Brighton fans is their side have managed to break through Liverpool’s defence in each of these previous fixtures.
The Team News
Expecting strong XIs from both teams in this one. Liverpool need to juggle a good performance, fluency, match fitness with zero injuries but a full side is required to see out the Premier League season in my opinion. I think Klopp starts with his preferred XI for the Champions League final here and will demand a high level of performance in their penultimate game of the season. They will want to see the game closed out as early as possible to bring off the big guns but they need a run out regardless in a competitive game. Brighton will bring Glenn Murray back who was benched and rested against Manchester City midweek, I can see them pretty much keeping the same XI that played against both Manchester clubs recently.
Liverpool are still without Emre Can (back), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Matip (thigh) and Joe Gomez (ankle) who won’t play any part in Liverpool’s remaining games. Adam Lallana has returned to full training and will feature in this one at some point as Klopp will most likely look to utilise him at some point in the final. Adam Lallana’s role at the club is a versatile one and I can see Klopp trialling out a certain role for him against Brighton.
Brighton have no fresh injury concerns at this time and are able to select a full strength side.
Karius, Trent, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson, Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane
Ryan, Bong, Dunk, Duffy, Saltor, Izquierdo, Stephens, Propper, Knockaert, Gross, Murray
Ones to Watch
Mo Salah has had a few quiet games recently, by his very high standards, and he will be looking to add to his 31 Premier League goals this season in front of the Anfield faithful. Can he break the record for goals scored in a single Premier League season?
Another to look out for his Klopp’s substitutions and team formation/tactics. I can see Klopp trialling out a couple of ideas in this final competitive match before the final.
Glenn Murray, 34, will be looking to add to his 12 league goals this season also. He’s currently on par with the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Eden Hazard and Son Heung-Min which is an achievement in itself. He’s scored over a third of Brighton’s league goals this season.
Can Liverpool become the only unbeaten home side in the league this season?
I can see Brighton breaking the Liverpool defence at some point in this one but I don’t see the shock result Chelsea will want to see at the end of the 90 minutes. I’ll go with 3-1 to Liverpool this week with goals from Mane, 2 from Salah (one penalty) and Glenn Murray adding to his tally for Brighton.