Brighton & Hove Albion-Liverpool Preview
Liverpool have two options if they are to qualify for next season's Champions League: beat Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield on Sunday, or dethrone Real Madrid in the Champions League final later this month.
Reds manager Jurgen Klopp would probably prefer his club take care of business this weekend, rather than waiting to try to knock off the two-time defending European champions.
The Reds (20-12-5) enter the season's final match week in fourth place in the table on 72 points, but they have not locked down the final Champions League place with Tottenham two points ahead and Chelsea breathing down their necks just two points behind. Klopp's charges, however, do control their own destiny as a win will secure fourth place for Liverpool, and they can finish as high as third if Tottenham lose to Leicester City.
It's been a banner year for the red half of Merseyside as the club will vie for its first Champions League crown since the 2006-07 season, which ended in a 2-1 defeat to AC Milan at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece. Liverpool's front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have excelled all season, combining to score 56 of the club's 80 Premier League goals.
Salah has netted 43 goals this season in all competitions, and can tie Ian Rush, who scored 47 during the 1983-84 campaign, for the club's single-season scoring record if he nets four on Sunday.
The Reds are winless in their last three Premier League matches, including a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week thanks to a first-half goal from Olivier Giroud.
But Klopp's men must put last week behind them and focus on the task at hand. The club may get some attacking reinforcements back as midfielder Adam Lallana could get into the game after Klopp declared him "as fit as possible."
"Adam trains normally since around about a week or so," Klopp said. "Yesterday (he trained) normally. It's a long time with no football but Adam is Adam, so it looks quite OK, to be honest.
"The perfect thing now would be to start with minutes; we'll see if we have the opportunity to do that. But (he is) as fit as possible, I would say."
Brighton (9-13-15) sit in 14th place on 40 points and will have Premier League football next season, so Sunday's finale will be more about finishing strong and coming out with a good performance against a quality opponent in a difficult ground.
Chris Hughton's Seagulls are coming off a 3-1 defeat at the hands of champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
While the result did not go Brighton's way, Leandro Ulloa scored the lone goal for his club. The Argentine striker has seen limited action since returning on loan from Leicester City.
"They are champions and it's so difficult to play against them because they have the ball most of the time. We made some mistakes, but I thought we were competitive during the game," Ulloa said. "At 1-1 we needed to defend well, but they have so much quality and when you make a mistake, you concede.
"I'm happy about my goal, but sad that we lost. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but I'm happy because I feel like my old self with good fitness and physical qualities. I felt good and I know I have to play more regularly, but whenever I play I try to help the team score."
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 21 home Premier League matches against promoted sides since a 2-1 loss to Blackpool in 2010-11. If the Reds avoid defeat, it will be the seventh time they have remained unbeaten at home across an entire top-flight campaign, more than any other side.
Updated May 11, 2018