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Liverpool host Southampton on Wednesday night, as they search to overturn a one goal deficit after a 1-0 defeat in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final.
The fixture is of huge importance to both sides, with a trip to Wembley up for grabs for the winner. The competition is the best opportunity for Jurgen Klopp to cap off his first full season in charge with some silverware.
Match: Liverpool vs Southampton
Date: Wednesday 25th January 2017
Time: 20:00 GMT
Despite a very promising start to the season, Liverpool have somewhat fallen off the pace since the turn of the year. The Reds have recorded one win in 2017 – that being the 1-0 victory over Plymouth in the FA Cup – and as a result of their league form, have seen themselves dip to fourth place.
In their last match, the Reds were hugely frustrated by a resilient and determined Swansea side. Few would have expected the away side to come away with the spoils, given Liverpool’s position as the highest scorers in the league compared with Swansea’s woeful defensive record. Nonetheless, Klopp’s side once again failed to produce at their potential, with Sadio Mane’s absence proving a huge stumbling block to their season. Despite two terrific goals from Roberto Firmino to bring the scores back to 2-2, a poor defensive display by Lovren and Klavan allowed Sigurdsson to steal the winner, much to the frustration of the Anfield faithful.
Klopp will be seeking a reaction from his players after such a poor, and unexpected, performance and there is no better way to do so than in the semi-final of the league cup. Liverpool have been desperately awaiting a chance to earn some silverware in recent years, with the Europa League and Capital One Cup narrowly avoiding their grasp last season. The Reds will have to be at their best to turn things around against Southampton but if Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana can re-find the form they showed earlier in the campaign, Liverpool could be set for a Wembley final.
The Saints travel to Anfield with a one goal advantage courtesy of a Nathan Redmond goal in the first leg, but given their performance at St Mary’s they’ll be rather disappointed their lead is not of a bigger margin. Keeping Liverpool out on their own turf will be a much harder task but having failed to concede a goal in two home games against the Merseysiders along with a record of four clean sheets already in the competition, all against fellow Premier League opposition, they’ll be confident of completing the task at Anfield.
In their last match, Southampton put in a thoroughly dominant performance against current Premier League holders Leicester, scoring three goals in the process. James Ward-Prowse scored his first goal in 22 games for the Saints and his free-kick helped to set up Jay Rodriguez as the home side doubled their lead. Dusan Tadic’s late penalty assured all three points went Southampton’s way as they geared up for their crunch tie with Liverpool in mid-week.
Both Swansea and Plymouth’s recent performances at Anfield will no doubt offer some guidance as to how Claude Puel’s side can overcome Liverpool on Wednesday. If they can soak up the pressure and hit the Reds on the counter attack, they’ve got every chance of progressing.
- Southampton have yet to concede in the EFL Cup this season.
- All of Southampton’s matches in the competition have finished 1-0 or 2-0.
- Liverpool have scored the most goals in the competition among the four semi-finalists.
Liverpool will field their strongest possible side on Wednesday as they look to book a place in the final of the EFL Cup. Joel Matip is available for selection after FIFA deemed him eligible to play. The Cameroonian featured for an hour for the U23s at the weekend and Klopp will be delighted to have his first choice centre-half back at such a crucial point in the season.
Nathaniel Clyne only recently returned to action for Liverpool at the weekend after struggling with an abdominal injury, and the ex-Saints man could be rested with fears over his fitness still ongoing. Jordan Henderson is also still dealing with a heel problem, but will take part.
Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino are set to make up the front three, with Emre Can retaining his place in midfield despite not looking his best in recent weeks. A midfield lacking in fluidity and balance due to the more advanced role of Adam Lallana hasn’t been very effective for Liverpool of late, but Klopp is left with few options with Mane still at the African Cup of Nations.
Southampton will be sweating over the fitness of Virgil Van Dijk for the tie, with the defender limping off during their win over Leicester on Sunday. With Jose Fonte completing a move to West Ham, the Saints will be short of options in the centre-back department if he is ruled out. When asked about his availability, Claude Puel said “We will see tomorrow and the next day. He is an important player for us and I hope he can recover.”
James Ward-Prowse is set to retain his place in the side after an impressive performance against Leicester. He ran the furthest of any player on the pitch (11.7km) and produced a team-high total of 10 crosses.
Liverpool Predicted XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner, Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino.
Southampton Predicted XI: Forster, Soares, Yoshida, Stephens, Bertrand, Clasie, Romeu, Ward Prowse, Redmond, Rodriguez, Tadic.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Southampton
Jurgen Klopp will be desperate for his players to react after a poor performance against Swansea at the weekend. If the Reds can’t perform in the semi-final of the cup, with a chance for silverware at stake, then there is cause for concern. Roberto Firmino was the only positive against the Swans, and I fancy the Brazilian to show his quality once again in his preferred central position.
With Liverpool set to boss possession and dictate the game, it’s imperative they remain patient and keep probing the Southampton defence. They can ill afford to show another weak defensive display, but Matip’s return should diminish that possibility. One thing’s for sure – Liverpool’s season will be defined in the next 9 days. Let’s hope we get off to a good start.