Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 16/25
Liverpool are set to welcome Brentford to Anfield on Saturday afternoon as the Premier League season approaches its end. The match will be a part of the 35th round of the campaign.
The Merseysiders hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League have started flickering again, following a run of excellent form, as well as a handy Manchester United defeat at the hands of Brighton and Hove Albion on Thursday. Leaving other teams aside for a bit, Liverpool won their last five matches, after drawing 2-2 at home against title chasers Arsenal. That run includes a 1-6 win over Leeds away, a 3-2 home win over Nottingham Forest, a 1-2 win away to West Ham, a 4-3 win at home over Tottenham Hotspur, and a 1-0 win over Fulham at home on Wednesday.
It still feels the Merseysiders have left it too late to make this kind of comeback after a largely disappointing season. Their hopes of a top-four finish may have started flickering, but sitting fifth with 59 points at the moment, they’re still four points behind Manchester United in fourth, six behind Newcastle in third, and both rivals have a game in hand on them. They also need to be looking out for Brighton, whose win over United has taken them to a tally of 55, and they have two games in hand on Liverpool. It seems Jurgen Klopp’s men are in for a rough finish.
Forward Roberto Firmino will miss this match but he’s expected to return to team training next week. Other absentees include Thiago Alcantara, who underwent surgery and like fellow midfielder Stefan Bajcetic and defender Calvin Ramsay, the former Bayern Munich man won’t play again this season. Naby Keita is another midfield name absent for a while now, while captain Jordan Henderson and forward Diogo Jota face late fitness tests.
Alisson Becker will be in goal, with the pair of Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk expected to start as the centre-back pair. Andy Robertson will play on the left of the back line, while Trent Alexander-Arnold shifts between right-back and central midfield areas, as he did in recent games. Curtis Jones has been playing exceptionally well and should start again, with Harvey Elliott and Fabinho completing the section. Upfront, Cody Gakpo will probably start through the middle, Mohamed Salah on his right and either Luis Diaz or Darwin Nunez on his left.
Close to the end of their second season in the Premier League, Brentford have established themselves as a strong and important team in the English top flight. At the moment, they look set to finish in the top half of the table and that is certainly a great achievement for Thomas Frank and his team, given the budget they have to make do with.
At the moment, the Bees are ninth in the league with a round figure of 50 points, four less than Aston Villa and Spurs in the two spots directly above, and five more than Fulham in 10th. Therefore, the outcome of this game will do nothing to move them either way, but given the spirit they’ve consistently shown through the season – not least when they beat Liverpool at the Community Stadium, they won’t go to Anfield without being prepared to fight for every yard.
Meanwhile, Brentford have just started recovering from a string of disappointing results. Their last-six run includes a 1-0 defeat away to Manchester United, a 1-2 defeat at home against Newcastle, a 2-0 defeat away to Wolves, a 1-1 draw at home against Aston Villa, a 0-2 win away to Chelsea, and a 2-1 home triumph over Nottingham Forest.
Midfielder Christian Norgaard is injured, and it’s not certain he will play this season again. On the other hand, goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, forward Keane Lewis-Potter and defender Pontus Janson could be back in contention for the Anfield trip.
Frank has confirmed that defender Kristoffer Ajer is ready, having overcome a problem of his own.
With David Raya between the posts, Ben Mee and Ethan Pinnock will likely pair up in the heart of defence, flanked by Rico Henry and Aaron Hickey. Vitaly Janelt will anchor the midfield, with Mikkel Damsgaard and Mathias Jensen fighting tasked with holding the middle of the pitch. Ivan Toney will lead the line upfront, with Bryan Mbeumo on one side and Kevin Shade on the other.
As unpleasant as Brentford can be for any team, Liverpool included, Frank’s men will find it difficult to stop the hosts in a fiery Anfield atmosphere. Expect another narrow win for the Merseysiders, but with both sides finding the back of the net this time.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 16/25
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