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Klopp’s big decision remains in defence – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Brighton

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Liverpool are out to notch three successive Premier League wins for only the second time this season and Jurgen Klopp has added two new faces to his ranks, but will they get a look in against Brighton?

It’s been an eventful few days for the Reds, with two league wins arriving prior to two new centre-backs on deadline day.

It has provided a welcome boost as Liverpool now look to the second half of the 2020/21 season, one they will complete without Takumi Minamino after he sealed a loan switch to Southampton.

Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies were the ones chosen to help fill the growing void at the heart of the defence as Joel Matip joined Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez on the long-term injury list.

And now, Brighton arrives at Anfield off the back of their own morale-boosting victory over Tottenham as they look to continue creating a buffer between themselves and the relegation zone.

The matchup is one which presents a number of selection options for Klopp as he weights up consistency, rotation and no doubt the clash with Man City, which comes four days later, in his XI.

 

Team News

Did Liverpool make a deal with the devil after the title win? It’s an unprecedented season due to the pandemic, but it has been compounded by the lack of luck for the Reds’ centre-backs.

With Fabinho expected to be out until Man City‘s visit on Sunday with a minor issue, things went from bad to worse when news of Matip being ruled out for the season broke on Monday.

There had been hopes that the injury was not as serious as first feared, but Liverpool confirmed the No. 32 will join fellow defenders Gomez and Van Dijk in the rehab room and not be seen in action again this season.

It was no surprise then that Liverpool went out and secured both Kabak and Davies, both of whom have been effectively ruled out of the XI against Brighton as Klopp insisted they will both “need time” to settle.

Jordan Henderson and Nat Phillips, therefore, are expected to remain as the pairing of choice, with Fabinho still sidelined with a muscle complaint.

Naby Keita and Diogo Jota remain out of contention with their respective injuries, while James Milner and Divock Origi could both return to the bench after minor knocks at West Ham.

No fresh update was provided on Sadio Mane, who sat out against West Ham, leaving his chances to return in a state of unknown after he became the latest to sustain a minor issue.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. Brighton

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 31, 2021: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum (R) celebrates with team-mate Roberto Firmino after scoring the third goalduring the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With three days between the final whistle in London and kickoff at Anfield, there is certainly scope for the boss to make a number of changes but consistency could certainly be in order.

It would mean that both Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are asked to continue their busy seasons with yet another start, with Henderson and Phillips sat in between.

While the Reds faithful will be eager to see the new additions in action, Klopp isn’t one to throw anyone straight in and this would see the duo remain at centre-back after playing the last 135 minutes next to one another.

A similar diamond approach to that seen at West Ham could be on the cards should the boss turn to both Curtis Jones and Xherdan Shaqiri after their bright performances last time out.

It would leave Gini Wijnaldum and Thiago to occupy the other positions in midfield, while Roberto Firmino returns to the XI alongside Mo Salah.

And the Egyptian is fond of the Seagulls having contributed to nine goals (five goals, four assists) in his last seven games, where he will hope to break their strong defensive record of late having conceded two in their five outings:

Alisson; Trent, Phillips, Henderson, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Jones; Shaqiri, Salah, Firmino


On the other hand, this could be the time to hand one of the full-backs a break before an all-important run against Man City, Leicester and Leipzig in the space of nine days.

Robertson, who has played the most minutes of any Red this season, would be the clear choice but should Klopp look to integrate Davies into the side at the first opportunity he would be best served sitting alongside a regular member of the XI.

It would mean Kostas Tsimikas is denied his maiden Premier League outing, with Neco Williams instead coming in for Trent at right-back as the defence is shuffled once more.

With only six sides having scored less than Brighton in the league to date, confidence should remain that this ‘makeshift’ defence, which includes Henderson, can keep them out.

The midfield remains as abovementioned, with Milner dropping out after his third start in a row to pave the way for Jones’ return following an influential cameo.

And Firmino is restored to lead the line alongside Salah, while there could be scope for Mane to nestle back into the XI should his absence at West Ham have proven to be more of a precaution in a side that looks like this:

Alisson; N. Williams, Henderson, Davies, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Jones; Salah, Mane, Firmino


The addition of two new centre-backs comes a little too early to see the influence in this fixture, but one could certainly occupy a place on the bench at Anfield.

Brighton will arrive with confidence after their recent results, but Liverpool are back on track and this is a fixture they must end with all three points as they start off a busy and important month.

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