Defensive dilemma could cause problems for Liverpool - Ben Pett

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk. Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

Liverpool will hope to bounce back from two successive defeats when they travel to in-form Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, despite having a dilemma in central defence.

The Reds lost their top-of-the-table clash 2-1 at Manchester City last week and then exited the FA Cup by the same scoreline at Wolves on Monday.

Central defenders Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have been out for five and four weeks respectively and Dejan Lovren joined them on the sidelines after picking up a hamstring injury at Wolves.

Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk was not involved at Molineux but has been key to the Reds' form this season. They have kept 12 clean sheets in their 21 Premier League games and have conceded just ten goals.

But will a reshuffle at the back cause problems at a Brighton side who are strong at home?

Midfielder Fabinho could again play centre-back, like he did at Wolves, as Jurgen Klopp is unlikely to throw 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever into the side after he made his debut in the FA Cup third round tie.

Fabhino has helped out at the back before, playing as a right-back in the early stages of his football career at Monaco and Real Madrid B.

Will Brighton be able to take advantage of a Liverpool duo who have not played together before?

Van Djik regards himself as not only one of the best defenders in the Premier League but also in the world.

The Dutch captain has been pivotal to Liverpool's title charge this season, providing the perfect role model for young defenders such as Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Full-backs Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have also been vital to Liverpool for the past couple of seasons and have been big contributions to the title race and last season's Champions League final.

The pair have already contributed seven assists this season.

Robertson's fine performances have not gone unnoticed and he has now established himself as Scotland's captain, while Alexander-Arnold has made his way into the England squad and was in the 2018 World Cup squad.

Experienced striker Glenn Murray and livewire Florin Andone will both look to ask questions of the Reds defence. Murray will be looking to add to his tally of eight league goals this season but he has not scored since the 3-1 victory against Crystal Palace in early December.

Not only will the strike force of Brighton be a threat, but midfielder Solly March will look to cause problems and add to his tally of five assists this season.

Jurgen Locadia has also hit form in recent weeks, with two goals and one assist in his last five games.

Despite their troubles in defence, Liverpool have no such problem at the other end. Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have got 29 goals between them this season, with Salah getting the only goal in Liverpool's win over Brighton at Anfield in August.

Last season, the trio notched 57 goals in the Premier League.

Salah has 13 goals this season and sits third in the Premier League, while Firmino has scored four goals in his past two Premier League games.

To bounce back from their defeats to City and Wolves, Liverpool's front three have to click.

The Reds will view upcoming games against Brighton. Crystal Palace, Leicester, West Ham and Bournemouth as a chance to get their title hopes firmly back on track.

Liverpool ran rampant to win 5-1 at the Amex last year but Brighton are strong at home and have lost to just Tottenham and Chelsea this season. The Seagulls have already beaten Manchester United and Everton at home and drawn with Arsenal.


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