24 August 2018

Liverpool v Brighton 08.25.18

12:30pm ET, live in the US on NBC

Last four head-to-head:
4-0 Liverpool (h) 05.13.18
5-1 Liverpool (a) 12.02.17
6-1 Liverpool (h; FA Cup) 02.19.12
1-2 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 10.21.11

Last matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Crystal Palace (a); 4-0 West Ham (h)
Brighton: 3-2 United (h); 0-2 Watford (a)

Referee: Chris Kavanagh (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Gomez van Dijk Robertson
Milner Henderson Keïta
Salah Firmino Mané

There might be changes?

It's seemingly harsh to drop anyone from the XI which has won the last two matches. You'd expect Henderson to return to the line-up sooner rather than later, but both Wijnaldum and Milner have been excellent. Matip's fit, Lovren won't be for another few weeks, but Gomez has similarly impressed. Firmino hasn't had his best two games, but remains an archetypal player for this system. Fabinho's going to be bedded in very slow, as Robertson was, as Oxlade-Chamberlain was. It went alright in both those cases.

Otherwise, you've seen this side, you know this side.

So let's guess Henderson comes in for Wijnaldum, because *throws hands up, stares adoringly at picture of James Milner*. Maybe Sturridge or Shaqiri for Firmino, who's seemingly had the most World-Cup-hangover of any Liverpool player who went to the World Cup (*glares at Alexander-Arnold's crossing, then remembers Alexander-Arnold's defending*), with Salah very much capable of playing as the central striker if Shaqiri's on and Sturridge very much a central striker.

But, as per usual, I'm more inclined to guess the same as before and hope that Liverpool are capable of the same as before.

As with Liverpool, this'll probably be basically the same XI as in Brighton's last match, a delightful 3-2 win over Manchester United. Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Balogun, Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Pröpper, March; Groß; Murray. Lewis Dunk, with two own goals in three matches against Liverpool, was injured in that match and replaced by summer signing Balogun, while Izquierdo and Bruno are also out.

Maybe Hughton decides it's time to bed in some more new players; Brighton had a very busy summer, after all. Ten new players signed during the offseason, highlighted by Montoya, who's already made the right-back position his own in Bruno's absence; Bernardo, who may come in for Bong; Yves Bissouma in central midfield; and club-record signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh, an incredibly dangerous right-winger.

But Solly March and Anthony Knockaert were integral players in Brighton's side last season and so far in this. As have been Stephens and Pröpper in midfield. Knockaert can play in Pascal Groß's position, but Pascal Groß is great, one of the most creative players in the Premier League, especially when you consider who he's playing for.

Brighton's last match against United showed what they're capable of. United's third season Mourinho syndrome not withstanding, Brighton were great. They stymied United. They took the game to United, at least in the first half. They pressed and dispossessed United and immediately went, using both width and pace up the flanks and long balls toward Glenn Murray.

They've elements of what West Ham could well be capable of if they can put all those new players and new manager together, they've elements of what Crystal Palace threatened but failed to do to Liverpool last week.

That said, Brighton have a terrible record away from home. Their opening day match was a disappointment, a 2-0 defeat at Watford. They won just two of 19 away matches in the league last season, against Swansea and West Ham, in late October and early November.

Brighton have a terrible record against Liverpool, with four-goal defeats in both fixtures last season.

Chris Hughton has a terrible record against Liverpool, with four-goal defeats in all five of his matches as a Premier League manager.

Past is no precedent, but this is Liverpool's match to win. As in weeks one and two, it's up to Liverpool to do what Liverpool needs to. What Liverpool are supposed to. What Liverpool are capable of if they're to achieve this season's goals.

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