Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Brighton vs Liverpool - More important for them than us

As strange as it may sound, tonight's Carling Cup clash at The Amex is probably more important to Liverpool than Brighton and Hove Albion.

The Albion may be licking their wounds after a first defeat of the season away at Sven's big-spending Leicester City, but that blip in the East Midlands was nothing compared to Liverpool's slip-up at White Hart Lane.

The Merseyside giants came into the new season with high hopes of regaining a foothold in the top four of the Premier League - and with Kenny Dalglish having spent a further £48.5million on top of the £50million already splashed on Luis Su├írez and Andy Carroll.

The Seagulls may have shelled out a club record for Craig Mackail-Smith, but that fee is around a tenth of the wad Liverpool used to recruit Steward Downing - not to mention the £16million Jordan Henderson, £7million on Charlie Adam and the £5.5million on Jose Enrique.

And, as Paul Tomkins of leading Liverpool website The Tomkins Times said, the most expensive of the new intake has not done too much to justify his hefty price tag.

Talking about how Andy Carroll had done so far, he said, "Not too well.

"He’s clearly a talented player with a sweet left foot. But there’s a lot of pressure on him.

"I think Carroll has the ability to come good, but the price tag makes people expect miracles."

For Carroll then, the chance to notch a couple of goals against lower grade opposition is a welcome opportunity to get on the goal trail.

He appeared against Exeter in the previous round and it would not be a surprise to see him take to the field at The Amex tonight - with his usual strike partner likely to be rested in favour of Craig Bellamy.

If you believe the pre-match press Steven Gerrard could return to the starting line-up tonight as part of his road to recovery from a recent injury - and Liverpool fans will be keeping their collective fingers crossed that the inspiration talisman can come through 90 minutes unscathed.

Despite all the new players, Gerrard remains central to all that is good at Anfield and tonight's match will play an important role in blooding him back to first team action.

Perhaps more significantly for Liverpool though, the Carling Cup represents a historically favoured stomping ground and a competition the club will be expecting to do well in.

After Sunday's ill-disciplined defeat to a rampant Tottenham team and a 1v0 mauling at the hands of Stoke, Liverpool will want to set down a marker and get back to winning ways.

And for Dalglish, tonight's game is one in which defeat is unthinkable and inexcusable. Recent problems have been blamed on referees but, with the Seagulls likely to shuffle their pack ahead of Friday's home game against Leeds, even a howler from the man in the middle could not explain away an early exit at the hands of a Championship outfit.

Clashes between the clubs have been few and far between in recent years, but Brighton fans always remember the 4th Round FA Cup tie back in 1991 where Johnny Crumplin marked John Barnes out of the game - with the Seagulls coming back from 2v0 down to force a replay.

And it seems the nostalgia is not just one way. Paul Tomkins reminisced, "I more vividly remember the 1983 FA Cup game where Brighton won at Anfield.

"The hugely reliable Phil Neal missed a penalty, which summed up our day.

"The most interesting thing about the 1991 game is that it came just weeks before Dalglish resigned. Now that did stick in my mind!"

Ah yes, Dalglish, King Kenny. To the much of the footballing world Roy Hodgson seemed to get a rough deal at the hands of the normally ultra loyal Kop - with fans baying for the return of their favourite son.

Tomkins explained, "Despite his experience, Hodgson made mistake after mistake.

"After an impressive inaugural press conference, he began talking in increasingly bizarre riddles as the pressure got to him, and his own goals included criticising the fans who were protesting about hated owners Gillett and Hicks. He bought poorly overall, and was incredibly defeatist in what he said.

"But above all, the football was dire. Instead of footballing defenders (like Agger), he preferred old fashioned stoppers (Kyrgiakos) in a rigid 4-4-2.

"We became a long ball team, hitting and hoping. He did a great job at Fulham, but he didn’t have the right approach for Liverpool.

"We made the worst start for 50 years, had the worst cup result for 50 years, and, unthinkably, had a negative goal difference all season.

"It wasn’t all his fault, but he came in and claimed he could get more out of the same players, but he got far less. He then said no-one could do better with the same set of players, and then Kenny Dalglish came in and blew that out of the water."

A defeat tonight would surely have some of the same scousers questioning whether Dalglish has squandered the club's transfer warchest and will make a tilt at the top four seem more remote than ever - particularly in light of Tottenham's recent upsurge and decent transfer dealings.

For the Albion though, the match is nothing more than a pleasant distraction. A chance to give a few fringe players a run-out while savouring the atmosphere at a first ever Amex sell-out.

Nobody in Sussex is expecting to win and, if they are honest, most would probably be happy losing 10v0 tonight if it meant four points from the next two league matches with Leeds and arch rivals Crystal Palace.

Ninety nine times out of a hundred, Brighton will be early-round cup fodder for a club of Liverpool's size and a shiny new stadium and a decent run in the league does not change that.

However, upsets do happen. Who is to say tonight won't be that one time in one hundred?

The Albion's resident Liverpudlian star Craig Noone is certainly confident. Cocooned in the away end at White Hart Lane on Sunday he tweeted something along the lines of how miserable an afternoon it was, before adding, "I wonder how many of these fans will recognise me when I score on Wednesday."

If he does and they don't, they certainly will from then on.

No comments:

Post a Comment