Liverpool welcome Brighton to Anfield today for the final game of the Premier League season. The game is set to kick off at 3pm. Liverpool are fourth in the table, while Brighton are 14th.
Liverpool just need to avoid defeat today to secure Champions League football for next season. They’re currently two points ahead of Chelsea, but since their goal difference is better by 15 goals, a point will do them. Unless Liverpool draw and Chelsea beat Newcastle 16-0, of course, but that’s obviously not going to happen. I can’t really see any way they lose today’s game, if I’m being completely honest. Brighton are a good side, and they’ve shown on more than one occasions that they’re capable of providing an upset, but with them having nothing to play for, while there’s so much at stake for Liverpool, I think they’ll get the job done today.
The Reds aren’t in the best run of form at the moment, and have only won once in their last five games in all competitions. That win was their huge win at Anfield against Roma, but they have lost to Roma and Chelsea, while drawing with West Brom and Stoke recently. They really should have wrapped up a Champions League spot a long time ago, but they can be forgiven for taking their eye off the ball a bit. They have the small matter of the Champions League final to think about, and I think that has really been in their minds lately.
You can see with how they’re playing that they’re not fully committed as they worry about injuries ahead of the final and the World Cup. That’s completely understandable, I think, but they can’t afford to have that mindset today. They need to go out there and give everything and ensure they get a result from this game. I can see them winning today’s game quite easily, since they have so much to play for and Brighton don’t. But they need to be wary of the threat Brighton pose, as they will be playing without pressure and will have the freedom to express themselves.
Jurgen Klopp told This is Anfield: “As much as we respect Brighton, we come into the game with confidence and with belief that we can finish our season in the best way possible. Belief has been central to so many of the positive things we have done this season.”
He added: “I said after Chelsea – and it has been repeated by the players – that today is a cup final and it is. And that’s not to add unnecessary pressure, it’s just to highlight the opportunity. Today is about opportunity. A Champions League place for next season and all that comes with it is within our grasp if we want to take it.
“Like any cup final, it will not be given or presented to us. We have to go and do our job, all of us. But in a season where the competition in the Premier League has been of the highest quality ever and the intensity of the competition the highest ever, we can achieve one of our major objectives by winning today. That really is the start and end of any team talk, I can tell you.”
Liverpool will be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, who will both unfortunately miss the Champions League final and the World Cup as well. Emre Can will likely miss out again, but Adam Lallana could be named in the squad. Sadio Mane is a doubt, while Joel Matip is also out.
Brighton have had a tremendous season, and they can be really proud of what they have achieved. It’s not easy for a promoted side to stay up, but they have managed it; with quite a few games to spare too. They have been safe for a while now, in my opinion, but last weekend’s win against Man Utd confirmed it. They bought extremely well last summer and came into this campaign with a really good squad of players. Chris Hughton has done a really good job there and they’ll hope to push on next season.
It’s not over yet though, and they’ll want to finish their season in style with a good performance today. I don’t think they’ll be too disheartened if they lose the game, but they’ll be hoping to play well anyway. They’re going out there with a lot of freedom today, and they can afford to take risks that they may not have been able to take earlier in the season. I think we’ll see them try to play good football and put on a bit of a show today. There’s no need for them to go all defensive on it, because they’re not desperate for a point, so they might as well go out and try to play some slick, attacking football.
Chris Hughton told Brighton’s official website: “It’s no different [to Manchester City]. When you are playing against the top six away from home, Liverpool are going to have a huge amount of possession.
“I saw a couple of stats from Huddersfield’s last two games (Manchester City and Chelsea). They drew both games and had something like 20 per cent of possession. That’s what happens when you go away to the big clubs, particularly the passing teams like Liverpool.
“You need to cope with the possession and intensity that they have got. They are a team that start very, very well and if you are not at it you can find yourselves behind very early.
“So as regards preparation it’s no different. We were up against an outstanding team on Wednesday and we are up against an outstanding team on Sunday.”
Izzy Brown and Steve Sidwell are Brighton’s only absentees.
I think this one could be interesting, but I really think Liverpool will win it. There’s just too much at stake for them to be beaten, and with Brighton not playing for anything, they should be fine. A draw will do them, but they’ll definitely be going out trying to win the game.
The team news will be out at 2pm, and you’ll get that up here as well. You can follow all of today’s action with me on Twitter. Enjoy the game.