Weblog: The football punter

Liverpool to sign off in style against Brighton

Premier League
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Liverpool have two chances to secure Champions League football for next season and by far the easiest route is to earn a point at home to Brighton on the final day of the Premier League season to guarantee a top-four finish.

Only a Brighton victory would open the door for Chelsea, allowing them to snatch fourth place by winning at Newcastle.

But the Chelsea camp won't be holding out much hope of a shock result at Anfield, where Liverpool are unbeaten 18 league matches this season.

Liverpool looked jaded when losing 1-0 at Chelsea last Sunday but that was understandable at the end of an emotionally charged week which saw them qualify for the Champions League final.

They have had plenty of time to recharge the batteries and Jurgen Klopp can play his strongest side knowing the Champions League final against Real Madrid is 13 days away.

Klopp would prefer to utilise his first-choice three-pronged attack, although Sadio Mane is a doubt after picking up a minor injury.

However, Mo Salah will be highly motivated to end a three-game scoring drought and extinguish any slim hope Tottenham's Harry Kane has of snatching the Golden Boot - Salah leads by three, 31-28.

Brighton make the trip to Merseyside in a relaxed mood, knowing their primary objective of safety has been achieved.

However, the Seagulls can still finish between tenth and 15th and their final placing will have financial implications because each position is worth almost £2million.

For a club of Brighton's size, a possible extra £10m is a significant incentive and there were no signs of Chris Hughton's men easing off when they lost 3-1 at Manchester City on Wednesday.

Brighton's problem is that however hard they try it is going to be difficult to contain a Liverpool side determined to end the domestic season on a high.

There has been a recent drop-off from the Reds, who have gone three league games without a win for the first time this season.

But each of those matches came either directly before or after one of the Champions League semi-final clashes against Roma, which have dominated Liverpool's focus during the Premier League run-in.

It has been a relentless schedule for the Reds but with a full week to prepare they are likely to increase the intensity and strive for an early goal to put any doubt over Champions League qualification to rest.

Brighton have defended well for the most part this season with centre-backs Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk playing key roles.

But they have struggled away against the leading clubs, losing on all of their five trips to the big six and scoring just one goal.

Hughton's men may not be fully recovered from the effort expended in the loss at City in midweek and a tired Seagulls side are likely to fall behind in the first half, affording Liverpool fans a stress-free end to the Premier League campaign.


Liverpool-Liverpool double result

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Match in Focus

19:45 Sa 26May

Real Madrid v Liverpool

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Real have won just one of their last four Champions League meetings against English opposition
Expert verdict
Real Madrid have lifted the Champions League in three of the past four seasons but they could struggle to retain their crown against a lively Liverpool. Real have been the dominant force in Europe, with last year’s 4-1 thumping of Juventus in the final in Cardiff showcasing their superiority. However, Zinedine Zidane’s men have not bumped into a front three like the Reds’ often - Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have netted 29 of their 40 Champions League goals this season - and they are vulnerable to the counter-attack.