Liverpool travel to Brighton for a Wednesday evening clash, as the Seagulls look to pull further clear of the relegation zone.
The Reds were back on the winner’s board against Aston Villa on Sunday, extending both their unbeaten run at Anfield and their lead at the top of the table after Man City‘s subsequent defeat.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side have only truly hit their stride once since the restart but will no doubt be aiming to continue to find their rhythm with plenty still to play for before season’s end.
The hosts, meanwhile, have all but secured their Premier League status for next season but they could sense an opportunity to take a big scalp on home soil.
They have experienced mixed fortunes since their return to action, with two wins, one draw and a defeat – where they head into the clash following on from a narrow win over cellar-dwellers Norwich.
With the match fast approaching, we spoke to Kieran Maguire (@KieranMaguire), lecturer in football finance at the University of Liverpool, to get his verdict on Brighton’s relegation fight and Liverpool’s quality.
How would you assess Brighton’s season so far?
Pretty in terms of performances, but pretty ineffective in terms of winning matches, which has been a problem.
Brighton play good-looking football in the Premier League, with far more possession than in previous years, but still lack a cutting edge in the final third.
That has been our biggest issue.
Has Graham Potter justified being manager moving forward?
Yes, he is very progressive, full of ideas and a thoroughly nice guy on top of it.
He has made tough decisions about leaving popular and/or expensive players out of the starting XI, or out on loans/selling them.
Shane Duffy, Anthony Knockaert, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Florin Andone and Jurgen Locadia all spring to mind.
He has given academy and Under-23 players a chance, including Steven Alzate and Aaron Connolly – as well as some left-field decisions, such as converting 6’7 centre-back Dan Burn into a left wing-back.
You never hear Potter say a bad word about anyone, win, lose or draw.
We never have a clue as to the starting lineup or formation before the game, as he sets the team up differently all the time.
He has had to deal with the death of both his parents recently, too, but has been a total gentleman on and off the pitch.
Do you believe the Seagulls will beat the drop?
We should do enough, partly due to so many of the other teams in the bottom six being notably worse than us since the restart.
Who have stood out as the best, and worst, performers for Brighton?
Lewis Dunk has been superb for us all season.
I am amazed that a bigger club with a soft centre has not come in for him, but it has been to our advantage that it hasn’t happened.
Mat Ryan has been solid in goal, too, but other than that, players have been in and out of form.
On his day, Aaron Mooy looks excellent, but his form has wavered. Yves Bissouma has the potential to be an N’Golo Kante, but lacks consistency.
Where does this Liverpool side rank among the best you’ve seen in your lifetime?
I am old enough to remember Brighton playing Liverpool in the old First Division between 1979-1983 and this side is up there with them.
Is there anyone you particularly fear going into Wednesday’s game?
Sadio Mane. His pace is scary, and given that we like to knock the ball about a bit, the thought of losing possession and conceding with players of his speed on the pitch is a concern.
We saw with Man United‘s superb third goal against us last week that we are vulnerable to the counter-attack.
Where do you see the key battles taking place?
In midfield, screening the ball from the strikers will be a tough job for Bissouma and whoever partners him.
We cannot afford to lose players we are supposed to be marking, otherwise, Liverpool’s pace will make it a stroll for them.
Finally, hit us with your prediction…
Brighton 0-2 Liverpool.