Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
17:30 BST, Saturday 25th August, Anfield, BT Sport
Jurgen Klopp’s heavy metal side have made light work of their first two fixtures and head into this weekend as the only Premier League team yet to concede. With six consecutive clean sheets at Anfield, Liverpool look to have finally shaken off their porous reputation. A hard-fought win in South London last Monday also showed newfound levels of grit and resilience against the type of mid-level club they so often fell to in recent seasons.
Chris Hughton’s side are also up and running this season with one major scalp already to their name. Having lost heavily in this very fixture during the final game of last season, the Seagulls now have an early opportunity to rectify their record which shows losses from each of their previous four meetings.
Without a win in 14 successive away trips in the Premier League, Brighton will have everything to gain from this game, but must do so against a side looking refined, ruthless and overwhelming favourites to beat them this weekend.
Last Time Out
Crystal Palace 0-2 Liverpool
Liverpool showed plenty of resolve and defensive strength to repel a determined Palace side and maintain their winning start.
The Reds quickly grew into the game and became more dominant as the first half progressed. It took a controversial penalty for them to take the lead though, awarded against Mamadou Sakho on the cusp of half time after Mo Salah tumbled over the defenders outstretched leg.
The home side came back strong after the break and Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez became Liverpool’s most impressive players as they stood tall to their opponents’ efforts. While Liverpool enjoyed more possession, it was the Eagles who looked the most threatening until a quick break by Salah resulted in the Egyptian drawing a foul which resulted in the dismissal of Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
With a numerical advantage, Liverpool eased through the final 15 minutes of the match before Salah and Sadio Mane linked up to seal the result in added time.
Brighton 3-2 Manchester United
Three first-half goals proved enough to shock the Red Devils and take a deserved three points whilst recording their first win of the season.
Following a poor showing against Watford, the Brighton players gave Hughton the perfect response with a polished performance. Looking the hungrier, more determined and more effective team, the Seagulls outclassed a side expected to finish in the top four this season.
Glenn Murray set the scoreboard rolling with a delightfully cute finish before Shane Duffy’s opportunistic yet composed goal two minutes later rocked the visitors inside half an hour.
Just minutes before Murray’s goal, an ankle injury to Shane Duffy meant Leon Balogun replaced the Seagulls’ captain in central defence to put two debutantes into Brighton’s back four. They both made notably strong performances, however, which kept United’s attackers largely at bay.
With a two-goal cushion throughout the majority of the second half, Brighton rarely looked like giving up their lead and saw out what was a relatively comfortable victory despite a late consolation goal five minutes into injury time.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Dejan Lovren (pelvis) once more sit out for Klopp’s side, but Joel Matip has recovered from a muscular injury and will be available for selection.
He’s unlikely to replace the impressive Joe Gomez in central defence, though, and Klopp may be tempted to name an unchanged team for the third successive game despite his penchant for squad rotation.
Lewis Dunk will not feature as he recovers from the ankle injury forcing him from the field after 20 minutes last weekend.
Bruno (hamstring) and Jose Izquierdo (knock) will also be unavailable, but beyond Balogun replacing Dunk in defence, Hughton is unlikely to alter his starting XI from his tried and trusted lineup.
Key Battle: Sadio Mane vs Joel Ward
With three goals in Liverpool’s first two games, Mane is their in-form player. The Senegalese winger enjoyed a fruitful campaign last season only to be left in Salah’s shadow.
This season could well prove the opposite having outperformed his teammate in both previous games while the added competition from Xherdan Shaqiri’s arrival provides further incentive to keep his hot-streak running.
Looking to halt Mane’s forays is an Eagles stalwart who is being squeezed out of the first team. The emergence of Wan-Bissaka has seen Ward slip down the pecking order, having served the club admirably since he arrived in 2012.
If he’s to have any chance of re-asserting himself back into Hodgson’s plans, a big performance against Mane is needed but that could prove easier said than done.
Back to the future
Jordan Henderson established himself as Liverpool’s midfield anchor to not only claim a regular starting place, but take the captain’s armband too.
After joining the club from Sunderland playing in a more advanced position on the pitch, it looks like this season could see him revert back to this preferred role.
With Georginio Wijnaldum looking more suited to the shielding role than a box-to-box midfielder and the addition of Fabinho this summer, Klopp has two very capable players to use in this deeper spot.
For Henderson, his vision and forward passing improved substantially over the course of last season and with high energy levels and a better reading of the game, this season could see him flourish as a box-to-box midfielder.
Turning back the clock
Glenn Murray’s once again turned back the clock last weekend with a display that was full of pace and stamina. His hold-up play, willingness to run into the channels and fight for every ball epitomised the team spirit which proved the difference between the two clubs.
This weekend the Brighton striker celebrates his 35th birthday when he runs out to face another team vying for the league title.
A similar display to last week will undoubtedly cause Liverpool problems, while his record of two goals and an assist from 150 minutes played against the Reds also suggests he has nothing to fear.
How long Murray can keep up the good form he’s carried through from last season is unknown, but the striker has the full backing of his manager and shows no sign of slowing down.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Brighton
Much like their Monday night match against Crystal Palace, Liverpool will need patience and teamwork to break down a stubborn opponent, but they’re more than capable of winning.
Much of Brighton’s strength lies in their home form and while they are unlikely to capitulate against Liverpool, they only took two points against the top 12 teams away from home last season and this campaign could prove a similar story.
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