The start of a new year has once again brought a downturn in form from Liverpool, whose thinly-veiled optimism at the conclusion of 2018 has given way to doubts about their ability to handle the pressure of being title favourites following the extinguishing of their unbeaten league record and their premature FA Cup exit to Wolves. As was the case in previous Januarys, results have taken a turn for the worse at this vital juncture of the season.
The Reds remain four points clear at the top of the Premier League, though, and have the chance to push that out to seven for at least 24 hours if they can return to winning ways this afternoon. Standing in their way are Brighton, who again are having a relatively comfortable season in the lower reaches of mid-table. While Chris Hughton’s men are generally weak travellers, they are an altogether different beat at home and the only teams to beat them at the Amex Stadium so far this season are Tottenham and Chelsea. Here is our statistical preview of Saturday’s clash of Brighton and Liverpool.
Last six Premier League games
Liverpool: W5, D0, L1, F19, A4, Pts 15
Brighton: W1, D2, L3, F5, A8, Pts 5
The defeat to Manchester City last week brought to an end a run of eight consecutive Premier League wins for Liverpool, who have dropped half as many points since New Year’s Day as they had in the five months prior to it. The concession of only four goals in their last six league outings looks decent, but three of those have come in the last two games. Indeed, the 2-1 loss at the Etihad was the first time Liverpool had shipped multiple goals in a league fixture since a 2-2 draw at West Brom last April. It was also their first Premier League defeat since May, when they went down 1-0 at Chelsea. Prior to the Man City game, the Reds bagged the full complement of 21 points available to them in December – only five fewer than Brighton have managed from three times as many games this season.
The Seagulls’ record of five points from their last six league matches doesn’t look all that great, but all five of those points have come in their three most recent fixtures, having lost three in a row prior to that. They ought to be hosting Liverpool off the back of two straight wins, but they relinquished a 2-0 lead at West Ham in their last Premier League outing. If they avoid defeat against Jurgen Klopp’s side, it will push their unbeaten run in the league to four matches, something they have yet to manage this season.
Premier League head-to-head record
With Brighton only debuting in the Premier League last season, there isn’t much history between these two in the division. All three meetings so far have gone the way of Liverpool, whose first Premier League visit to the Amex Stadium resulted in a comfortable 5-1 win, as outlined in further detail later in the piece.
The two meetings at Anfield came within just 15 weeks of one another at opposite ends of the Premier League season. On the final day of 2017/18, Liverpool still needed a win to guarantee themselves fourth place in the league and they managed it in style, hammering four past the Seagulls without reply. After Mohamed Salah had given the home side a 26th-minute lead, the other goals came from less regular sources, with Dejan Lovren, Andrew Robertson and Dominic Solanke also on target. For the latter, it was a one and only competitive goal for Liverpool, with the youngster recently completing a transfer to Bournemouth.
Having waited nine months to visit Anfield last season, Brighton were back there only two weeks into this campaign. Liverpool maintained their perfect record against the Seagulls but there was no four-goal romp this time. Only a superb first-half strike from Salah separated the teams and, were it not for a stunning 87th-minute save from Alisson to deny Pascal Gross, the visitors would have left with a very creditable point. That was Liverpool’s first 1-0 victory in any competition in just over a year; they would get three more in the subsequent four months.
Last Amex Stadium meeting
Brighton 1-5 Liverpool, 2 December 2017
Brighton had yet to take a serious scalp in their first Premier League season, but nor had they been beaten heavily until Liverpool rolled into town on the opening weekend of December. The teams had been level at the half-hour mark but two goals in as many minutes then gave Klopp’s team a launchpad towards victory, with Emre Can’s strike quickly followed up by one from Roberto Firmino. When the Brazil striker doubled his tally three minutes after half-time, the points looked well and truly bagged.
However, Brighton were soon back in the contest after Glenn Murray converted a penalty and, with Liverpool having recently blown a 3-0 lead against Sevilla, there was a sense among the home supporters that a comeback was not entirely improbable. Brighton forged a few more chances but were eventually picked off with two goals in the final five minutes, Philippe Coutinho cheekily directing a free kick underneath the defensive wall to restore the three-goal gap and Lewis Dunk scoring a late own goal to round off an immensely satisfying away win for Liverpool – their third consecutive win on the road in the Premier League, and all of those by three goals or more.
One-third of Brighton’s Premier League tally of 24 goals has come from Murray with eight, twice as many as their next leading marksman, who surprisingly is Ireland centre-back Shane Duffy. Murray has not featured regularly for Brighton of late, offering Florin Andone and Jurgen Locadia the chance to register two goals each. Eight of Brighton’s 24 goals have been scored by defenders, with Duffy’s four added to by Lewis Dunk with two and Leon Balogun and Dale Stephens with one each.
Liverpool have just over twice as many league goals as their opponents, with 49 netted so far. Salah has provided 13 of those, with Firmino and Sadio Mane registering eight each. The trio’s tally of 29 is five more than Brighton’s entire squad have managed. Of the seven players to have scored for Liverpool against Brighton in the Premier League, three are no longer at the club (Can, Coutinho, Solanke), while another (Lovren) misses out today through injury.
Liverpool’s January woes
In eight matches in all competitions in December, Liverpool conceded only three goals (one each against Burnley, Manchester United and Arsenal). In two matches in the first week of January, they shipped four, two each to Manchester City and Wolves. Those two defeats were half as many as they had previously acquired in all competitions this season.
Liverpool began last January in good nick, registering late wins against Burnley and Everton (the latter in the FA Cup) before bringing an end to Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League run in a 4-3 thriller. However, those results were followed up by a league defeat to relegation-threatened Swansea and a tame FA Cup exit at home to Premier League bottom club West Brom, who scored three times in the first half.
Klopp will certainly hope this January is nothing like the one he and his club had in 2017. Liverpool played nine matches in all competitions that month and won only one, a forgettable 1-0 success at fourth-tier Plymouth in an FA Cup replay. The Reds did not win any of their five matches at Anfield during the month, exiting two cup competitions as well as losing in the Premier League to Swansea and being held to a goalless draw by Plymouth. Between 21 and 28 January, they played three games at home and lost all of them, with Swansea, Southampton and Wolves all departing Anfield victorious.