The last time Brighton & Hove Albion played against Liverpool in a league match, the match finished as a 2-2 draw but the Reds were headed towards a comfortable league title win and Brighton were also headed towards the bottom of the league. That was in March of 1983. Now, almost 35 years later the Seagulls are getting ready to host the Reds on Saturday.
At the start of this league campaign, Brighton were expected to be one of the favorites for relegation. According to FiveThirtyEight.com, Brighton had a 47% chance of immediately dropping back to the Championship. But, they have defied those predictions and pushed themselves to tenth in the table after 14 games. Chris Hughton’s tactics and the players’ commitment to those tactics have resulted in them winning 4, losing 5 and drawing 5 games so far this season. At home Brighton have won two and drawn four while losing just once. In their last game – one Wednesday night – Brighton played Crystal Palace at the Amex Stadium in a goalless draw.
Liverpool, on the other hand, are trying to get their season back on track after a disappointing October. In their last five league games, the Reds have won four and drawn only once – against Chelsea. Three of their seven league wins have come away from Anfield, but both their losses have come away from home. Other than the 1-1 draw against Chelsea last Saturday, Liverpool have won in the last five games by more than three goals. Jurgen Klopp has shown a more proactive propensity to rotate his players so that Liverpool can overcome the December fixture crunch without too many injury problems. So far, there is no evidence that this rotation has hurt Liverpool. On Wednesday night, they won 3-0 on a cold wintry night at Stoke City and on last Saturday, they had drawn with the Champions Chelsea.
- Brighton have played Liverpool 25 times in all competitions overall, having won only four and having drawn only eight times. In 8 top flight matches (old Division One), Brighton have managed to win one and draw three. At home, Brighton’s record against the Reds reads two wins, five draws and five losses.
- Brighton have only lost one match in their last seven games – the 1-0 loss at Old Trafford in gameweek 13. At home they have performed even better – after losing the opening game of the season at the Amex Stadium, Brighton have not lost there. However, their last four home games have ended in draws.
- The Amex Stadium will be the 57th venue that Liverpool have played at in the Premier League. Of the 56 venues they have already played at, the Red have won at 52, which is more than any other team.
- Currently, Liverpool are second-best in terms of scoring on the road. However, they are also second from the bottom, when it comes to conceding on the road.
In 14 games, Brighton have scored 13 goals and one man – Pascal Groß has contributed eight of them. He has assisted five and scored three goals in 1178 minutes in the Premier League. This means that he contributes a goal every 147 minutes, which is quite decent for an advanced midfielder. In terms of expected stats, Groß has a 0.04 expected goal per 90 minutes, which is less but he has 0.39 expected assists per 90 minutes. Thus, in every game he plays in, the probability of him contributing a goal in 43%.
Sadio Mane who was signed before the 2016-17 season is regarded by most Liverpool fans as a great signing. The pacy winger has scored 17 goals for the Reds in all competitions in about one and a half seasons. But Liverpool’s signing from this summer – Mohamed Salah – has already scored 17 goals in less than half a season. Whether Klopp starts with him or brings him on from the bench, Salah cannot help himself from scoring. Against Stoke on Wednesday night, he helped himself to two goals. With 12 goals and 2 assists in 1064 Premier League minutes, he is contributing a goal every 76 minutes. His xG and xA per 90 minutes are 0.75 and 0.19 respectively, which translate to a probability of 94% of him scoring a goal or assisting one in 90 minutes.
For the Seagulls, Steve Sidwell is nearing a return but might not feature on Saturday. Chris Hughton will be hoping that Gaetan Bong can recover from a knock and be available. Hughton might also be tempted to rotate in Solly March who last appeared in the loss against Manchester United. Other than these, not many changes are expected in the Brighton lineup.
Jurgen Klopp has been quite proactive in rotating his lineup, especially since this rapid-fire round of fixtures began two game weeks back. For their trip to Amex Stadium, we can expect Klopp to bring back Mohamed Salah and Coutinho to the starting lineup, while retaining Firmino and Sadio Mane in the side to ensure a very strong attack. He might also rotate the two full-back positions and Trent Alexander Arnold, as well as Andrew Robertson might get a start. After Mignolet’s howlers in the last two games, Klopp might be tempted to bring in Karius in the goal.
While Brighton have been playing really well but it is easy to spot that they have played only Manchester United among the Big Six teams yet. That is their only loss in last seven games. Just like United, Liverpool will test Brighton and given the goal scoring form the Reds are in, a Liverpool win seems very likely on Saturday. They might concede an odd goal but should be able to score enough themselves so that they can win.
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 – 3 Liverpool