The festive period is a time for giving, and Liverpool’s defence were in particularly charitable mood against Brentford on Monday. They gifted the Bees a catalogue of goalscoring chances, and in the end the Londoners settled for three presents as they wrapped up a 3-1 victory that seriously dents Liverpool’s hopes of a top four finish.
Ibrahima Konate, returning for the first time since France’s run to the World Cup final, put through his own goal from a corner, while Harvey Elliott’s lack of concentration allowed the Bees to extend their lead through Yoane Wissa.
A miserable first-half showing was compounded by an injury to Virgil van Dijk – he could now be out for a number of weeks, while Konate’s festive fumblings would be compounded when his mistake allowed Bryan Mbeumo to fire home Brentford’s third on a dismal night for Jurgen Klopp and his troops.
It could have been worse. Ethan Pinnock and Mbeumo both had chances to increase the margin of defeat, and it was only a smart finish from Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain that reduced the arrears.
New signing Cody Gakpo has arrived on Merseyside and could even feature in the FA Cup third round tie with Wolves on Saturday, but it’s defensive woes that will be keeping Klopp up at night as he seeks a way – any way – for his side to show more solidity at the back.
If they don’t, the first five months of 2023 could be ones packed with more misery for the Reds.
Liverpool Team News
If Liverpool’s defensive frailties weren’t worrying enough already, the injury sustained by van Dijk appears to be worse than first feared.
The Dutchman has been sent to a specialist after complaining of hamstring pain against Brentford, and while there’s no diagnosis or timeline for his absence yet, it could be a matter of weeks – not days – before he’s fit enough to return.
Given Konate’s error-strewn performance against the Bees, it’s possible that Klopp will call upon Joel Matip and Joe Gomez as his central defensive duo, with Caoimhin Kelleher – the regular cup goalkeeper – deputising between the sticks for Alisson.
Kostas Tsimikas and Elliott were hauled off at half-time on Monday, and so it seems unlikely they will get a go on Saturday. Instead, Stefan Bajcetic may get a go in midfield alongside the fit-again Curtis Jones and Naby Keita.
It’s a rare day that Mo Salah gets rested, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has emerged with credit lately – he may continue on the left of the front three. Darwin Nunez will presumably continue to lead the line until he scores, which will do his confidence the world of good, but don’t be surprised if Gakpo enters the fray at some point as Klopp seeks to spark a revival in his side.
Julen Lopetegui finally took charge of Wolves in December, and in his three Premier League games so far he’s experienced a bit of everything.
The Midlanders were somewhat fortunate to defeat Everton 2-1 in the Spaniard’s debut, and they were soundly outplayed by Manchester United in his second – the 0-1 scoreline was somewhat flattering.
Wolves were better last time out against Aston Villa, and they carved out enough chances to win that game – they eventually had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
At this stage, we don’t really know what Lopetegui is going to bring to Wolves, but he will surely name a strong side on Saturday as he bids to build up a head of steam.
Liverpool vs Wolves Betting Tips
The three Premier League games Liverpool have played since the resumption of the campaign are a microcosm of their whole season: attacking brilliance matched by defensive ineptitude.
There’s certainly no reason to expect that to change with van Dijk absent, and so Both Teams to Score is a sound play in this game and any other in which the Reds take on top-flight opposition – you’ll get even money odds on this occasion.
You can extend that value further by taking BTTS and Over 2.5 Goals in a double at 5/4, and for the same price we’re going to try again with a popular play of late: Nunez to score anytime. Once again against Brentford, he had a chance that InfoGol rated a 43% probability of scoring – the Uruguayan missed the opportunity, but he continues to get into good positions. Will he finally make it count on Saturday?