The Anfield Wrap’s match preview before Brighton v Liverpool in the FA Cup fourth round at the Amex Stadium…
RIGHT back at the scene of the crime.
To hear Jürgen Klopp call The Reds’ 3-0 dressing down at the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion, merely two weeks ago, one of the worst performances of his managerial career is the sort of brutal honesty that makes us both love and relate to our boss.
He’s often been accused from the outside of making excuses — which is understandable if you view the world as black and white and hear a football manager talk about things like the wind and the pitch after his team has lost — but he made no bones about that game.
It was abhorrent, which is the worst word I could come up with to describe it that our parents would approve of.
The good thing is, Jürgen won’t have to make any excuses heading into this rematch, and he certainly won’t need to give his team any extra encouragement to go there and exact revenge.
If a really talented and well-drilled Brighton side play even better than they did last time, then fair play. Hold your hands up. They’re the better team right now, all things considered.
However, it won’t take much for Liverpool to be better than they were last time out. They have set themselves a particularly low bar to at least clamber over, while we all hope that they just clear it with flying colours and keep us all hopeful yet honest.
We don’t quite have enough confidence for blind faith just yet, but that’s nothing a few more weeks of positive displays couldn’t fix. Not with us in-fighting weirdos, anyway.
Luckily, you’d imagine there’s more harmony behind the scenes at Kirkby — I mean, again, a very low bar to clamber over there. The biggest short-term doubts will be over the futures of lads like Nat Phillips and Caoimhin Kelleher, though it’s likely that the latter gets a start this Sunday.
In front of him, the FA Cup being a weekend competition should allow for first-choice full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to pair up again. A few weeks ago I earmarked this game as a possible return for Joel Matip, but I now think confidence can be repaired more easily by persisting with Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez.
In midfield, it’s hard to know if another new combination will further make or further break things. I’m tempted to imagine the former is true, though, and say that Fabinho comes back into the six position with Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara flanking him.
Upfront, it could be a good opportunity to give Mo Salah something of a rest and allow for another new trio to be trialled. With that in mind, seeing Harvey Elliott on the right-hand side once again wouldn’t go amiss, while Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez could complete another new-look area of the pitch.
It has to feel new-look at the moment even if it isn’t really. Liverpool need to ensure they fly over the low bar they set themselves and give Brighton a much tougher afternoon than two weeks ago.
We’ve had enough tough afternoons with this side, this season. This time we must see more labour and then more fruits, in that order.
Predicted 11: Kelleher; Trent, Konate, Gomez, Robertson; Keita, Fabinho, Thiago; Elliott, Gakpo, Nunez