Liverpool vs. Brighton & Hove Albion: Premier League Matchday 29

Every single point is vital with just ten Premier League matches left- Brighton offers the next challenge.
Liverpool FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League
Liverpool FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

It feels like it was so long ago, but Liverpool's last Premier League match was actually the dramatic 1-1 draw against Manchester City.

Now, the Reds are still atop the table in terms of points, but they're joint-leaders, and trail Arsenal on goal differential. City are still just a point behind the duo, so nobody in this race has any margin for error.

Fortunately for the Reds, City and Arsenal will be locked in a head-to-head matchup on Sunday, so given any result other than an Arsenal win, Liverpool's game against Brighton & Hove Albion could help the squad regain sole possession of first place.

Every single game means more as the Klopp era comes to a close, especially with the FA Cup now off of the table after a crushing extra time loss to rivals Manchester United, which was in fact Liverpool's last game before a two-week international break.

With the squad back together, and regaining some health, let's talk about what Liverpool might be able to do against Brighton, whose manager, Roberto De Zerbi, just might be auditioning to be Klopp's successor.

Top of the pitch

If you've ever questioned whether Mo Salah is the most valuable player on the pitch for Liverpool, look no farther than the FA Cup debacle against United.

With the Egyptian King on the pitch, the Reds built a 2-1 lead and looked consistently dangerous. After Klopp took him off in the 77th minute, United held a 3-1 advantage the rest of the way, and Liverpool missed chance after chance.

One would have to imagine that the choice was a fitness-related one; Salah absolutely annihilates United, including a goal in that FA clash, and if Klopp thought he was in need of rest, it's hard to imagine that Salah would have gotten a full 90 minutes in an absolute annihilation of Sparta Prague.

All of this paired with Salah's absence from Egypt's fixtures over the international break serves to paint a picture that the key winger may not be as healthy as we're being told. Expect him to start against Brighton, but keep an eye on him- he might be on a minutes limit of sorts.

The same could be said of Darwin Nunez, who took it easy over the break with an injury of his own; he's officially available, but a full 90 would be a bit of a surprise.

That leaves Luis Díaz to play the full game, so with Diogo Jota still unavailable for now, expect some more of the much-maligned Cody Gakpo off the bench, as well as perhaps Harvey Elliott or even Jayden Danns if need be.

Defensively, Brighton have been a bit unlucky; they're ninth in goals conceded per match, but fourth when it comes to defensive xG.

This defense, bolstered by versatile players like Pascal Gross and Pervis Estupinan, is not an easy one to break down, so the Reds will need to be at their best to get on the scoresheet repeatedly, even at Anfield.

The Midfield

A year ago, this would have been unthinkable, but in recent weeks, Liverpool's stars have been in the midfield. Alexis Mac Allister has been on absolute fire, Wataru Endō is establishing himself as a real force in the center of the pitch, and Harvey Elliott has been really impressive when played in that portion of the pitch.

Dominik Szoboszlai has had his share of issues in the final third, but he's done well as a passer of the ball and in terms of possession control.

All of a sudden, Liverpool's midfield might just be the team's greatest strength, with a true abundance of options on any given day. As true as that rings now, it could be even more apt in coming weeks, given the potential impending returns of Curtis Jones, Stefan Bajcetic, and given Conor Bradley's form, possibly even Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Whoever does find the pitch for Liverpool in the midfield will have their work cut out for them against a Brighton side that averages 62.6% of possession- better than Liverpool, better than Arsenal, behind only City. Gross has been a big part of this success as well, but he's far from alone; even attacking-minded players like Kaoru Mitoma have contributed by way of keeping the ball in the right part of the pitch.

The Back End

Alisson still isn't ready yet, so Caoimhin Kelleher will need to bounce back from one of his first rough performances as a Red. No, the loss isn't nearly on his shoulders, but there are reasonable gripes that he could've done more in a spot or two; he'll look to do just that with a home crowd behind him.

The defense is back to picking up injuries, rather than getting players back; Andy Robertson is frustratingly down again, so expect Joe Gomez in the left-back spot.

In the middle, we'll of course see Virgil van Dijk, but who will be alongside him? Ibrahima Konaté is in a questionable health situation, while Jarell Quansah's play against United left much to be desired.

We'll have to wait and see who will take that spot, but to his right will surely be Conor Bradley, who picked up an assist in the FA Cup loss as he continues to establish himself with some excellent football.

This Brighton squad is top 10 in both xG and actual goal scoring, and it's a pretty even attack; João Pedro leads the way with eight Premier League goals, with a pair of players behind him with six apiece.

Gross has once again been a factor in this part of the pitch, with a remarkable 10 assists despite a relatively low-lying position on many days; watch out for him to rip apart the Liverpool back line if there's a lapse like the ones we've seen on occasion in recent outings.