In game week two of the Premier League, before their own team ground out a victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, one result would have given immense satisfaction to Liverpool fans – Brighton & Hove Albion’s win over Manchester United. Coming completely out of the blue, the upset handed a clear advantage to the Reds in what is expected to be a closely fought affair at the top of the table. Now, Liverpool have a chance of hosting the Seagulls at Anfield on Saturday evening. The Reds fans would want their team to be far less generous than their archrivals.
Liverpool have started the Premier League season in a great fashion, winning two games out of two and not conceding even a single goal. More importantly the manner of both the victories – blowing away West Ham at home before fighting it out at Crystal Palace – indicate that Jurgen Klopp’s team have the hunger to challenge for the title this season. Goals for most of their front line, and clean sheets in both the previous game also indicate the form the team is in currently. Further, the fact that they are playing at home, where they have not lost the last 22 league games, also points to the massive advantage the home team enjoys.
Brighton are returning to Anfield just after two game weeks. They played the last game of the 2017-18 season at Anfield in May. They lost that game 4-0. But that was a different Brighton than the team that will visit Liverpool on Saturday. This team has beaten Manchester United at home last weekend and is coming to see if they can impose the same result on Liverpool. Chris Hughton has imbibed this team with confidence and after escaping the relegation battle completely last season, they are aiming for higher targets this season. However, the odds of the Seagulls going back with a point or three are extremely long.
- Brighton have played Liverpool 27 times in all competitions overall, having won only four and having drawn only eight times. In 10 top flight matches (old Division One), Brighton have managed to win one and draw three. In fact, Brighton have lost last three games against the Reds by four goals or more.
- Liverpool have not lost a league game at Anfield in the last 22 games. They have not even conceded a goal at Anfield since they conceded to West Ham in February. Further, Brighton have not won at Anfield since 1982.
- Since 2010-11, this is the third time that Liverpool have started the campaign with two wins. They are anywhere between 2 points (last season) and 5 points (2010-11, 2012-13) better off than their previous efforts during this decade.
- Chris Hughton has never won against Liverpool or against Klopp. Brighton have also failed to win their last 14 away league matches. None of these stats inspire confidence for the Seagulls.
Roberto Firmino – the talismanic false nine for Liverpool, has been quiet over the first two games of the campaign. He has a lone assist for his 161 minutes on field so far. However, this quiet from the Brazilian is not likely to last long. Over the last 3 seasons, he has scored 36 league goals for the Reds along with a total of 21 assists. His xG per 90 ranges around 0.30 – 0.35, while his xA per 90 ranges between 0.20 – 0.25, which means that in the past Firmino was expected to score or assist a goal once every two games. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that the Brazilian can find his scoring shoes on Saturday.
Groß enjoyed a wonderful season in 2017-18, scoring 7 goals and assisting 8, with an xG per 90 of only 0.10 and a xA per 90 of 0.26. In the first two games of this season, his xG per 90 has shot up to 0.45. He scored the penalty against Manchester United last weekend, and sealed their fate. For Chris Hughton’s side to trouble Liverpool, it is imperative that Groß has a good game on Saturday.
For Liverpool, Dejan Lovren’s absence is the only immediate injury concern. Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury will keep him away for the entirety of the season. With Klavan also gone, Klopp has little incentive to make any changes in defence. In other areas, Fabinho, Sturridge, Shaquiri and even Jordan Henderson will be hoping for some game time against Brighton but are unlikely to start.
Brighton will be without Lewis Dunk, who had to be replaced midway through the first half last weekend and who was more than adequately replaced by the summer signing Leon Balogun. Balogun should start on Saturday, but Florin Andone and José Izquierdo will continue to sit out due to their injuries.
While both Brighton and perhaps Manchester United fans will be hoping for another upset on Saturday, it is highly unlikely that Liverpool, in this form, will lose or even draw against a side that has a very poor recent record on the road. It should be a fairly easy win for the Reds.
Liverpool 3 – 0 Brighton