Sunday 13 October 2019

Hughton: No concerns about starting Balogun against Liverpool

The Nigerian is likely to be called upon at Anfield.

Leon Balogun made his Premier League debut against Manchester United (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Leon Balogun made his Premier League debut against Manchester United (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Ed Elliot, Press Association Sport

Chris Hughton says he has no concerns about handing Leon Balogun his first Premier League start when Brighton face the fearsome attacking talents of Liverpool.

Centre-back Balogun, a free transfer from German club Mainz in the summer, is almost certain to play at Anfield due to Lewis Dunk’s ankle injury.

The Nigeria international was thrust into action on his Albion debut, coming off the bench to play 70 minutes in Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Manchester United after Dunk was hurt in a challenge with Romelu Lukaku.

Seagulls vice-captain Dunk , who has formed an impressive centre-back partnership with Shane Duffy during the past two years, has not trained all week and is a major doubt for Saturday’s clash on Merseyside.

Brighton boss Hughton is confident 30-year-old Balogun can fill the potential void and help shackle the Reds’ formidable front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

“He’s played at a high level and I have no worries or concerns on that one,” said Hughton, speaking about the prospect of picking Balogun.

“It’s always a big position and a big relationship your central defenders, particularly when you’re going to Anfield and you know you’re very much going to be tested.

“He has made a very good impression from day one. I think what helps is that he’s an experienced player.

“I think somebody like him coming into the game against Manchester United wouldn’t have been fazed by it at all and generally has taken it in his stride.

“What we have in Lewis Dunk is a player we rate very highly and has a great partnership with Shane Duffy that they have developed over the last couple of seasons.

“And what you would want is somebody to come in who you would feel assured in his ability and confidence of stepping in.”

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool hit 84 top-flight goals last campaign, including nine in their 5-1 and 4-0 victories over Brighton.

They have begun this season in similar style, registering six strikes without reply in their two opening fixtures.

Hughton feels his team are capable of competing with the Reds, but accepts the game is one of the most difficult on the fixture list.

“As managers we have all been involved in games where you have been well beaten and we have all been on the end of results that have been fives and sixes,” he said.

“I never felt the gap was that massive between us (last season) so that gives us a bit of comfort going into it but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is one of the most difficult places to get a result.

“The tempo of the game I expect to be very fast. That’s what they’ve proved already this season, that’s what they showed last season and they’ve made good additions to the squad so I expect nothing different to that.”

Brighton remain without captain Bruno due to a hamstring issue, while winger Jose Izquierdo (lack of fitness) and forward Florin Andone (groin) are also unavailable.

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