Liverpool vs Brighton – Anfield, 15:00 Saturday 14th January 2023
Liverpool’s start to the year has been far from vintage.
They began by losing 3-1 to Brentford at the Gtech Community Stadium.
This was then succeeded by a 2-2 home draw with Wolves in the FA Cup.
However, the much-fancied hosts were lucky to escape defeat with the visitors having a controversial goal ruled out for offside by VAR, much to the annoyance of Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui.
The opinion of most experts was that it was indeed a goal, something Reds coach Jurgen Klopp neither confirmed nor denied.
These two results were preceded by a shaky 2-1 victory over Leicester on the second to last day of 2022, as two comedy own goals by Wout Faes handed a fortunate Liverpool the points.
So, it’s safe to say the Merseysiders have been unconvincing three matches in a row.
The players and manager will be desperate to end this mini slump against Brighton away at the Amex Stadium.
Klopp concedes poor form
However, the German did admit that his side’s performances have been less than impressive.
“All the games are really important for us.
“It’s interesting that the second part of the season, after the World Cup, we start now with two wins, then lose a league game and we drew a cup game,” he said.
“The results are the results but there were parts of our performances that we didn’t like. That’s true.”
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Klopp also revealed how he thought the team could improve.
“So, in one-on-one situations we lost challenges too easily.
“You cannot win a football game without winning challenges. It’s absolutely not possible, and we drew a football game by not winning them.
“We would win more if we did and that’s what we have to do.”
Brighton – tricky opponents
Liverpool are only too aware just how difficult an opponent Brighton are.
Last time out, in manager Roberto De Zerbi’s first match in charge, the Seagulls raced into a 2-0 lead in the first half thanks to two sublime goals from Leandro Trossard.
Liverpool then roared back to 2-2 with Roberto Firmino netting a fine brace.
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And the hosts thought they had won it when Adam Webster’s own goal gave them a 3-2 lead, only for Trossard to complete a stunning hat-trick as the Reds dropped points, and lost further ground in both the title race, and the hunt for the top four.
The Seagulls also beat Manchester United 2-1 in Erik ten Hag’s first game in charge and impressively thrashed Chelsea and former boss Graham Potter 4-1 at the Amex, in De Zerbi’s first game in charge.
They are also coming on the back of a huge 5-1 FA Cup victory over Middlesbrough at the weekend, so are full of confidence.
Klopp recognised the threat Brighton pose.
“They are playing really good stuff and full of confidence. If they qualify for Europe it would be massive,” said Klopp.
“We have the opportunity to go there and cause them real problems.”
Liverpool have won just once out of their last five against Brighton, back in March 2-0 at the Amex, with three draws and a defeat.
That famous 1-0 loss coming nearly two years ago in an Anfield shock.
“In our best seasons, Brighton was always a tough place to go. It was not a case of we arrive there and just win the game.
“If we got something there, we had to dig deep and that’s what we have to do again, and that’s the plan.
Moisés Caicedo and co
The interesting sub-plot is that Belgian, Trossard, has been left out of the matchday squad altogether by De Zerbi due to his ‘poor attitude’.
The rumour is that Tottenham are chasing his signature, and perhaps that is something to do with his absence.
But he is not the only player that is impressing.
Midfielder Alexis Mac Allister had a sensational World Cup as Argentina and Lionel Messi went on to lift the trophy.
The midfielder’s stock has rose since his exploits in Qatar and will also be a dangerman to the Reds.
But their main man in midfield, since the departure of Yves Bissouma, once admired by Liverpool transfer chiefs, is Moisés Caicedo.
Brighton’s Moises Caicedo has reportedly told friends that he wishes to go to Liverpool amid £65m transfer rumours.
The Ecuadorian midfielder is apparently pushing for a move to Anfield after heavy interest for his signature is reported.
— TheKop.com (@TheKop_com) January 7, 2023
The Ecuadorian also featured at the World Cup and is a fine operator in the middle of the park, and at just 21, still has room for improvement.
Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs are known to be admirers but rumours believe that Chelsea want to sign him after enduring a setback in their pursuit of fellow 21-year-old, Enzo Fernández.
Caicedo will no doubt be gunning to show Liverpool what he’s capable of.
And one fan on twitter believes he is indeed a Reds supporter.
Lack of firepower and Gakpo’s PL debut
Klopp has been beset by injuries lately.
Now striker Darwin Núñez, for an unspecified issue, joins Firmino, Luis Díaz, and Diogo Jota on the sidelines.
If his options up front weren’t already limited by four huge absences limiting the team’s attacking goal threat, they are also vulnerable defensively as defender and vice-captain Virgil van Dijk was ruled out for a month due to a hamstring injury.
The boss clearly has to work with what he’s got, as he’s admitted, but the one silver lining is new £37 million attacker, Cody Gakpo, is set to make his Premier League debut.
📍 AXA Training Centre
Training time ⏰ pic.twitter.com/hsIYTyvID2
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 12, 2023
And perhaps, like Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel and Georginio Wijnaldum, the Dutchman will be gunning to be an Anfield success, but, unlike his predecessors, go down in club folklore by scoring on his debut.
Although, van Dijk did do so famously, but in the FA Cup against Everton five years ago.
So, here is Gakpo’s chance to shine and he will be one to watch.
Meanwhile, midfielder veteran James Milner also returns following his injury absence.
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I’m definitely calling a draw.
This fixture has not historically been kind to Liverpool and the Amex has also not been a happy hunting ground for them.
Trossard is absent but they have other stars who are dangerous.
A draw seems likely, although it won’t do Klopp’s side any favours, as they desperately look to arrest their current slide and get back to form.