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It has not been the best start to 2017 for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. In the 2 games that the Reds have played, they have had two draws. The first one – a 2-2 stalemate at Sunderland – might be excusable, given that it kicked off less than 48 hours after a taxing game against Manchester City.
But Sunday’s goalless draw in the FA Cup against Plymouth Argyle is inexcusable. Even with the much-changed team, Liverpool should be beating Plymouth. So, on Wednesday night, it is a huge game in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final against Southampton, as Liverpool look to get back to winning ways.
Match: Southampton v Liverpool – EFL Cup Semifinal First Leg
Venue: St. Mary’s
Date: Wednesday, 11th January
Time: 19:45 BST
For starters, the Reds and Klopp have good memories of this competition and at St. Mary’s in particular. In last season’s quarter-final, Liverpool thrashed the Saints 6-1, with Divock Origi getting a hat-trick on the way.
A repeat would be hugely welcome, given the recent stutter, but it would take something absolutely extraordinary. It should be a much stronger lineup on Wednesday night than the one that played against Plymouth. But Liverpool have stuttered recently, and a first win of 2017 will be the only item on the agenda for Wednesday night, irrespective of the performance.
Southampton are going through a dip in form. Over the Christmas period, they did not win a single game. Since beating Bournemouth 3-1 in the South coast derby in mid-December, they had lost three consecutive games before drawing against Norwich in the FA Cup third round.
The defence is still a massive concern for Claude Puel and even though Virgil van Dijk has impressed one and all, they have not really found any kind of consistency at the back.
The likes of Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Gini Wijnaldum are all likely to start. Philippe Coutinho is back in full training, but this game could be a little too early for the Brazilian magician to start. It would not be surprising to see Coutinho make a second-half substitute appearance, as he battles to figure in Klopp’s plans for the huge trip to Old Trafford next Sunday.
It will be interesting to also see if James Milner is fit to start. If not, Alberto Moreno will deputise. The Spaniard was another one who had a fabulous game in last year’s quarter-final.
Sadio Mane is unavailable, having left to join Senegal for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Predicted Liverpool XI (4-2-3-1): Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno, Gini Wijnaldum, Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge
Predicted Southampton XI (4-2-3-1): Fraser Forster, Cedric Soares, Maya Yoshida, Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand, Oriol Romeu, Jordy Clasie, Steven Davis, Dusan Tadic, Nathan Redmond, Shane Long
WHEN THEY LAST MET
The last meeting was straight after the last international break. The two sides met at St. Mary’s in the Premier League, and in a game that Liverpool should really have won, it ended 0-0. Coutinho, Firmino and Mane all missed gilt-edged opportunities on that day as the Reds rued two dropped points.
- It is the first time Southampton have reached the last four of the competition for the first time since the 1986-87 season.
- Liverpool have won the EFL Cup 8 times – the most by any team.
- Liverpool are also the side to have reached the most number of semi-finals and finals in this tournament. They have made 17 semi-finals, making it to the final on 12 of those occasions.
PREDICTION: Southampton 1-3 Liverpool
With Klopp suggesting that the big guns will be back for this game, and considering what is on the line, Liverpool should be fired up for this one. The Saints have been on the slide recently and it is going to be difficult for them to stop Liverpool who are wounded too, but will come out hard.