After their FA Cup success last week, Brighton face a stern test on their return to the Amex this weekend in the form of Premier League leaders Liverpool, writes Bradley Stratton.
Goals from Anthony Knockaert, Yves Bissouma and Florin Andone sealed a 3-1 win for the Seagulls at Bournemouth in the third round of the competition, with a fourth round tie at home against Championship side West Brom pencilled in for the end of the month.
With that victory adding to the draw at West Ham at the start of January, it’s been a positive start to 2019 for Albion, who sit comfortably away from the relegation battle in the top flight on 26 points after their first 21 games.
That said, their next two games will pose the toughest tests of the New Year yet, with a trip to Old Trafford and an in-form Manchester United in a week's time preceded by the visit of Jurgen Klopp’s Reds to the Amex on Saturday.
Liverpool have remained as free scoring this season as they were in the previous campaign, however their improved defensive record is what has seen them make the jump from merely a side chasing a spot in the top four to title winning contenders. They’ve only conceded ten goals in the Premier League so far this season, with their unbeaten start in the top flight having only come to an end at the hands of Manchester City last week.
With that loss being followed up by their exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Wolves, Klopp will be expecting a response from his side when they arrive in Sussex. He will no doubt be looking for Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah to cause havoc for the Albion defence, with the talismanic trio having collectively scored 35 goals and provided 11 assists for the Anfield outfit in all competitions this season.
The last meeting between the sides on Merseyside at the end of August was a much tighter affair than most expected.
A first half goal from Salah sealed a 1-0 victory for the Reds, however Albion caused a number of problems for the home side in the second half, with Pascal Gross going close to levelling the score late in the game.
Albion are unlikely to have many changes from the team which started their Premier League match at West Ham last week.
The likes of Anthony Knockaert and Yves Bissouma put in strong performances in the FA Cup win at Bournemouth on Saturday - when Chris Hughton made eight changes - but they will probably have to settle for a place on the bench.
If Bernardo is not fit to start, after limping off with a hamstring injury at West Ham, Gaetan Bong will come in at left-back.
The other decision for Hughton is whether to start Glenn Murray or Florin Andone up front.
Likely line-up: Button; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; March, Propper, Stephens, Gross, Locadia; Murray. Subs (from): Steele, Bruno, Balogun, Suttner, Bissouma, Kayal, Andone, Knockert, Gyokeres.
With injuries hitting the squad at a crucial time, Jurgen Klopp looks set to play midfielder Fabinho alongside Virgil van Dijk in central defence.
Fabinho was in defence when Liverpool lost 2-1 at Wolves in the FA Cup on Monday but Jurgen Klopp also has options such as midfielders James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson, who have helped out in the back four before.
Wijnaldum played with Dejan Lovren at the back when Liverpool ran out 5-1 winners at the Amex last season.
Lovren will not be involved this time around as he limped off with a hamstring injury at Wolves. He joined fellow defenders Joel Matip and Joe Gomez on the sidelines.
Henderson should be fit enough to regain his spot in the starting 11, while the prolific front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will look to add to the 29 Premier League goals they have scored between them this season.
Klopp could have some of the club's promising youngsters on the bench, including 16-year-old centre-back Ji-Jana Hoever, who made his Reds debut six minutes into the Wolves game when he replaced Lovren.
Likely line-up; Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Djik, Robertson; Henderson, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino. Subs (from): Mignolet, Moreno, Hoever, Keita, Lallana, Shaqiri, Sturridge, Origi.
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