Brentford vs. Liverpool: Premier League Matchday 25 Preview

Liverpool will travel to London for a match against Brentford, where all three points are must-have.

Jan Kruger/GettyImages
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We’re almost two thirds through the season, and the Premier League race is still outrageously competitive at the top. In terms of points, our Reds are just two ahead of Manchester City, who are now healthy and have played a game less.

Arsenal is level with City, and both teams have a goal differential of +31 compared to Liverpool’s +32. 

A trip to Brentford might not appear to be a marquee match for a squad like Liverpool, but this time of year, absolutely every single point is vital. As seems to always be the case,

Liverpool is dealing with a revolving door of players exiting with injuries but others returning to the pitch, so the starting XI and tactics are a bit of an enigma heading into the team’s 25th Premier League match of the year. Let’s dig into this clash and start to think about what we could expect for this early Saturday match.

Top of the Pitch

Last week, I wrote that Salah would be the center of attention. Well, as it turned out, Klopp trusted the men to beat Burnley without their star forward, opting to protect Salah’s hamstring just a bit longer.

The gamble paid off, as all three forwards scored en route to a solid 3-1 win, but of course many were left wondering about the Egyptian King’s status.

It seems that Salah will genuinely be ready to go for Brentford, but as always in these situations, expect a cameo rather than a full appearance.

The front line should be fine without him in this match, even on the road; the trio of Luis Díaz, Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota seems to be the right combination at this time, as they combined beautifully against Burnley.

Missing big chances was once more an issue- the Reds converted just two of five such opportunities- but there’s no denying the quality of progressive play when those three link up. 

Brentford’s defense is definitely better than the Burnley group the Reds faced last week; the Bees are just about league average in terms of goals conceded, but top-five in terms of xG.

Have they been unlucky, or is keeper Mark Flekken a real issue in the net? We’ll have to see what Liverpool can make of the situation this weekend.

The Midfield

Wataru Endō was a much-welcomed presence against Burnley, as he played a full 90 minutes in his return from Asian Cup action. However, it's looking like Dominik Szoboszlai will be out a bit longer, with a targeted return somewhere around the Carabao Cup Final, so we’ll likely see a similar midfield to the one Klopp trotted out against Burnley.

That would be a trio of Endō, Curtis Jones, and Alexis Mac Allister, who has hit a run of very good form since returning from injury at the New Year. 

Harvey Elliott also snapped out of something of a funk with a nice half-game substitute performance, including his first league assist since early November; he could get a run as Klopp looks to reduce wear and tear on his top men.

Unfortunately, even with Conor Bradley back, we’ll have to wait a bit for the Trent Alexander-Arnold midfield revolution, as the star playmaker re-aggravated his injury and will miss several more weeks. 

Liverpool possessed the ball for a staggering 71% of the match against a Burnley squad that has been surprisingly competent in that regard this year.

Brentford ranks in a similar zone, 12th in the league, as they often run a relatively unique 3-5-2 shape that certainly concentrates numbers around the center of the field. That midfield group for the Bees is highlighted by Danish duo Christian Nørgaard and Mathias Jensen, two of the team’s top three rated players on FotMob.

They could pose a challenge for the Reds in the middle of the pitch as they help their team provide a different shape and look than Liverpool sees most weeks. 

The Back End

It really wasn’t a perfect bounce-back performance for the back line against Burnley; they conceded a goal and allowed the Clarets to produce 1.33 xG, not what you want to see against a bottom-three attack in England, especially when given just 29% of possession.

Of course, Alisson was ill and out of the lineup; it’s looking like he’s good to go as he was in training this week, so that could be a huge positive for the Reds as they continue their title push.

The back line was also missing Ibrahima Konaté, after he was suspended for a match in the wake of being sent off against Arsenal amidst the worst performance of his Reds tenure. 

The good news is that Andy Robertson played a full 90 minutes, and was strong in doing so. Having him back is absolutely vital as the team enters the late stages of the season.

Unfortunately, his partner in crime, Alexander-Arnold, is out for the next few weeks, although his understudy Conor Bradley is ready to return to the XI.

It’s not a fully intact defense for Liverpool just yet, but with Konaté, Bradley, and of course Alisson coming back, they should be fine for this week. 

Brentford is essentially an average squad both in terms of xG production and scoring, but they do create as many big chances as almost anybody, so little lapses like we’ve seen from this group- the Alisson/Virgil miscommunication against Arsenal comes to mind- could be problematic.

The attack really revolves around Bryan Mbeumo, who Konaté and van Dijk should be able to handle, but watch out for this Brentford team’s ability to create on the break.

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