Hallelujah. The international breaks of 2016 are over, and we’ve now got around four months of uninterrupted domestic football on our hands. Liverpool resume their campaign on Saturday with an away fixture against Southampton.
A trip to Saint Mary’s, especially on a cold November Saturday, is always a tricky one, but Liverpool go into it top of the table, and intend to stay there.
Match: Southampton vs Liverpool
Venue: St Mary’s
Date: Saturday 19th November
Time: 15:00 BST
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
You don’t top the Premier League table in November without having some solid form to back your title challenge up, and Liverpool certainly do.
The Reds are unbeaten in 12, a run that will be a day short of three months without defeat come kick-off on Saturday. ‘That’ defeat away at Burnley was followed up with impressive wins against the likes of Chelsea, Leicester and Hull, only for Klopp’s men to be somewhat blunted by Manchester United at Anfield – drawing 0-0.
Since then, however, the freely scoring Reds have kicked on once again, winning four games in a row, scoring 14 goals in that period and rising to the top of the league with a 6-1 win over Watford two weeks ago. They could be second by three o’clock on Saturday, if Arsenal beat Manchester United, but a win would ensure they end the weekend top of the tree.
Southampton’s continuity despite a number of player and staffing changes in recent years is something to be admired, and they’ve continued that this year with new boss Claude Puel leading the South Coast club to 10th place.
They’ve had some high moments recently, such as a home win over Inter Milan and taking a point from their trip to the Etihad Stadium last month, but come into the game off the back of two straight league defeats, 0-2 at home to Chelsea and then 2-1 away at Hull. The Saints were unbeaten in five league games before those defeats, so certainly can’t be taken lightly.
Liverpool’s last six: WWWWDW
Southampton’s last six: LWLWDL
Jürgen Klopp was dealt a blow in midweek when Adam Lallana, who has appeared in every league game so far this season, was forced off in England’s 2-2 draw with Spain. At the time of writing, Lallana is still being assessed by Liverpool’s medical staff ahead of the game.
If the midfielder is ruled out, you’d expect Georginio Wijnlaudum to step into a position that many feel is his natural role, with Jordan Henderson and Emre Can keeping their places elsewhere in midfield.
Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino have both been halfway around the world during the international break, and whilst Firmino had limited playing time, Coutinho started both games for Brazil, meaning Klopp could leave him on the bench come Saturday, possibly handing Daniel Sturridge a fifth league start of the season.
Southampton have a number of injury worries coming into the game, a benefit to Liverpool as they look to make it five wins in a row. The international break hasn’t been kind to Puel, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Fraser Forster pulling out of the Denmark and England squads respectively knock, whilst Dusan Tadic broke his nose playing for Serbia against Wales last season.
There is some good injury news for the Saints, who according to PhysioRoom have the most injured players in the division, as Cedric Soares, Matt Targett and Alex McCarthy are all nearing a return from the sidelines.
Liverpool Predicted XI (4-3-3): Karius; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner; Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Sturridge.
Southampton Predicted XI (4-1-2-1-2): My guess would be Forster, Martina, Fonte, Van Dijk, McQueen, Romeu, Davis, Clasie, Tadic, Redmond, Austin.
WHEN THEY LAST MET
Sadio Mane made the difference when these two teams last met, for Southampton! At St Mary’s in March, goals from Coutinho and Sturridge had put Liverpool 2-0 up at half-time, whilst Joe Allen had a goal ruled out for offside. Mane was introduced at the break, and pulled one back before eventually scoring the winning goal late on after Graziano Pelle’s equaliser.
It was a much happier meeting for Liverpool at St Mary’s in the League Cup earlier on in the season, as Origi and Sturridge starred in a convincing 6-1 win. Something similar on Saturday would be much appreciated.
- Daniel Sturridge has four goals in his last four games against Southampton.
- There have been four goals after the 80 minute mark in the last three meetings between these two teams.
- Liverpool have scored the most goals in the Premier League this season (30) – four more than second top scorers Chelsea.
- Despite having 13 less points than the Reds after 11 games, Southampton have conceded two less goals.
PREDICTION: Southampton 1-1 Liverpool
Yes, given the Reds’ form at the moment I’m being pessimistic, but a trip to the South Coast always worries me, and I think if Coutinho doesn’t play we might lack just that little bit of magic to get past Virgil Van Dijk – one of the best defenders in the league – too often. Still I fancy us to score, and concede (as always!), so we might just manage to scrape a win. Still, if I was a betting man, I’d say that it’ll be a point looked back on as a good one come the end of the season. Sadio Mane to net against his old club.