Brighton vs. Liverpool
Venue: The American Express Community Stadium
Kick off: 4PM
Liverpool head to the South Coast this afternoon for a first Premier League meeting with Brighton & Hove Albion, aiming to keep their good run of form going.
The Reds have won four of their last five top-flight matches to remain firmly in top-four contention, though the gap on leaders Manchester City remains at a surely insurmountable 14 points.
Ten matches into their top-flight return, Brighton find themselves exactly halfway between top and bottom after collecting a more-than-credible 17 points from a possible 42.
Boss Chris Hughton will be more than happy with that return heading into the festive period, even if he has been left frustrated by a run of four-successive home draws since beating Newcastle United at the Amex Stadium 10 weeks ago.
Only Man City have left this part of the South Coast with maximum points, in fact, doing so with a 2-0 victory on the opening weekend of the season – in hindsight, that margin of defeat is something to cheer for Albion fans in itself!
Brighton has also done well to pick up points on their travels, with victories away to West Ham United and Swansea City in recent weeks, leaving them well clear of the dropzone and with an eye on cementing a place in the higher reaches of the bottom half.
With games against Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea to come this month, however, remaining afloat of danger will still be the key priority for Hughton, who has had a bad time of things in his previous encounters with Liverpool.
Momentum has slowly been built with just the one defeat in seven, during which time the Seagulls have collected 10 points from 21 on offer, and now Hughton is seeking a first major scalp of the campaign.
Achieving that is easier said than done, of course, particularly when taking into account the fact that Brighton have failed to overcome Everton, Southampton, Stoke City and Crystal Palace here in successive games.
As proved against Manchester United last weekend, though, this will be far from an easy test for Liverpool.
Slowly but surely, Liverpool are finally beginning to find momentum under Jurgen Klopp in the Premier League following a number of false dawns, having recently racked up three league wins on the spin for the first time this calendar year.
Only a 1-1 draw to Chelsea has been enough to stop the Reds in the Premier League since their rather humiliating 4-1 loss at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur on October 22, with Willian scoring what appeared to be a fortuitous late leveller at Anfield.
Fourteen goals have been scored during this ongoing five-match unbeaten run, leaving Liverpool in fifth place and now two points outside a Champions League berth, with the side directly above them still left to face before Christmas.
Mohamed Salah, arguably the best signing of the summer so far in the Premier League, was left on the bench against Stoke City last time out, yet still managed to add two more goals to his tally late on – that is now 12 in 14 top-flight matches for him.
With Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino also being rotated in recent weeks, the Reds look in good shape to balance Champions League football with their domestic aspirations in the New Year, which ultimately proved to be their undoing in the early stages of 2017.
Questions still remain about their defensive setup, however, having shipped 16 goals on their travels this term – compared to just two at Anfield – while 15 goals have also been scored at the other end of the field. No team quite does away games like the often unpredictable Reds.
Brighton possible XI: Ryan, Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bong, Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, March, Gross, Murray.
Liverpool possible XI: Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Coutinho, Salah, Firmino, Mane.