Dale Stephens subscribes to the mantra no pain, no gain.

The 300th league appearance of his career against Liverpool at the Amex today, a week after playing at Old Trafford, represents pay-back for the Albion midfielder.

Stephens did not feature during the ill-fated reign with the Seagulls of Liverpool legend Sami Hyypia (below).

The Argus: A severe ankle injury, soon after signing from Charlton, sidelined him for ten months as Albion laboured at the wrong end of the Championship.

Going toe-to-toe with two of the Premier League giants, either side of the first top flight clash for 36 years with fierce rivals Crystal Palace, makes all the anxiety he felt back then worthwhile.

"It's rewarding for all the hard work I did over those ten months," Stephens said. "Mentally it was a difficult period. At the time the team was struggling as well, so it wasn't a happy place to be in.

"To come out of it and have the two years we've had is unbelievable. Last year was the best year of my life. Many other players would probably say the same. The summer was amazing.

"Man United last week, Liverpool this week, you've got to enjoy it and look forward to the challenges."

Stephens has been on Albion's Premier League journey every step of the way so far.

The Argus: He has not missed a single minute. The same applies to Davy Propper (above), his Dutch central midfield accomplice.

Beram Kayal returned to the bench from a broken leg in the 0-0 draw against Palace but they will take some shifting.

"I am enjoying being fully fit," Stephens said. "I'm physically at my peak and I am sure he (Propper) is as well. I am looking forward to playing more minutes together."

Liverpool's visit is the fourth test for Albion against the Big Six. They lost 2-0 to Manchester City on the opening day - their only home defeat - and at Arsenal.

The unfortunate 1-0 defeat at Manchester United was a sign of progress against the powerhouses of the division.

Stephens said: "They are tough games for anybody, whether you have just been promoted or have been in the division for several years.

"The top six are probably in a league of their own and they've got the financial backing of many millions. Team like us and a lot of others can't compete at that level.

"But we've been been brushed aside. We've held our own in those games and we're looking to go one step further this weekend.

"The presence of being at Old Trafford, the characters they have got in and around the team and the manager. They are a massive, massive club and for us to go their and give the performance we did is very encouraging for us. A little bit more quality in the final third and we might have nicked a point."

Bolton-born Stephens admits to being an admirer of today's opponents. "I think everyone is, secretly," he said.

"I'm a northern boy. I have been over to Anfield a couple of times. I was more a fan when they had Gerrard and a bit before that Michael Owen.

"So I've been a big fan of Liverpool and what they've done over the years. They took over English football at one stage, a little bit before me. I enjoyed watching Gerrard play.

"He was one of my favourites growing up as a kid, the likes of him and Roy Keane."

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have their own ex-Charlton influence in defender Joe Gomez who, if Albion had got their way in the summer, would be playing on loan for them.

The Argus: "I didn't see a lot of him," said Stephens (above). "The year I left (Charlton) he graduated into the first team but he was always highly respected at the club. They really rated him.

"He was an England schoolboy from a young age and he has gone on to be in the England squad.

"He has proved he is a top, top talent. It's probably unfortunate that we couldn't get hold of him.

"Liverpool are a different side to, for example, Man United. They are a quick team, very much player on the counter-attack, and they bring a lot of quality.

"It's going to be a difficult game but one we are fully focused on and looking forward to. We know we are solid defensively and we're going to have to be."

Albion, currently tenth, have surprised many outsiders by acquitted themselves so well up to now but Stephens remains realistic.

The bottom half of the table is congested. Only six points divide Palace at the foot from Newcastle in 12th.

The aim? "Get as many points between you and the relegation zone as quick as possible," Stephens said.

"We were top half of the table the other day. You can't really look at that just yet, it's way too early to feel like we are comfortable in the Premier League, because we're not.

"We're never too far away from the drop zone - and everyone knows it here."