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Tuesday 19 March 2019

Hughton: 'Pool title favourites but I wouldn't bet on it

Ki-Jana Hoever
Ki-Jana Hoever
Chris Hughton

Brighton boss Chris Hughton says Liverpool are favourites to lift the Premier League title but "wouldn't put money on it".

Jurgen Klopp's table-topping side travel to the Amex Stadium tomorrow with a four-point cushion on champions Manchester City.

However, the Reds were beaten 2-1 by second-placed City in their previous league fixture, before crashing out of the FA Cup at Wolves on Monday.

Asked if the Merseyside club can end their 19-year wait for a top-flight title, Hughton replied: "I don't know. At this moment, I think they are favourites simply because of the points difference, and I think they've been outstanding.

"But you certainly can't write off a Manchester City team that have been the best team over the last few seasons and arguably played the best football.

"I think Liverpool are favourites but I couldn't tell you who will win it.

"And certainly, I wouldn't put money on it."

Mid-table Albion were thrashed 4-0 and 5-1 by free-scoring Liverpool last season but were unfortunate in a 1-0 defeat at Anfield back in August.

Hughton, who has seen his team go four games unbeaten in all competitions, has urged his players to replicate that display as they attempt to secure a shock result.

"It was a performance that didn't get us a result but we were very close to it," Hughton said of the narrow loss. We will definitely have to be somewhere close to that to even think about getting something on Saturday.

"You have to have a defensive strategy, I don't think there's any team that plays against them that can afford to go into a game without that, even Manchester City, which was a great game.

"You also have to have a strategy to get out and keep hold of the ball. We are going to have to have periods of the ball - the longer and more often they have the ball what they have shown is that they will break you down with the quality they have."

Meanwhile Liverpool academy director Alex Inglethorpe admits Liverpool's job with youngster Ki-Jana Hoever is now to put together all the pieces of the jigsaw to allow him to progress.

The young defender, who does not turn 17 until next Friday, was one of three youth team players - Curtis Jones and Rafael Camacho the others - to make their senior debut in the FA Cup defeat at Wolves.

Hoever became the third-youngest player in the club's history and the youngest to play in the FA Cup, highlighting his rapid rise.

But Inglethorpe said there was a long way to go and it was up to the club to ensure he maintained his progress.

"I think that he's an outstanding talent. He has potential, he has serious potential," he said.

"His rate of progression, I suppose, after pre-season hasn't surprised me because he's someone that it was very clear from very early on had an awful lot of the pieces that you would need to become a top player.

"A lot of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are in the box and I guess we just have to put them together. He's a very exciting prospect."

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