Three games to go and every one of them is critical. Liverpool need to keep their momentum going for just a little bit longer and their next test is Southampton at Anfield. Here are the key battles:
James Milner vs Dusan Tadic
Whilst Tadic has been playing across Southampton’s front three, he’s most likely to start on the right hand side, especially as Liverpool’s left-back is the makeshift midfielder Milner. Tadic is a serious threat, an exceptional crosser of the ball and passer in the final third, good on the ball and difficult to stop. Despite only scoring three goals, Tadic has five Premier League assists this season, making him arguably the most creative force in Southampton’s side. If he gets a licence to run at Milner, then he could cause him a lot of problems. This is a big test for Milner, and one that could be pivotal in deciding whether Southampton breach Liverpool’s defence.
Adam Lallana vs Oriel Romeu
Oriel Romeu is one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, and one of the main reasons that Southampton have such a solid defensive record. With 3.2 tackles per game, 2.3 interceptions and 1.8 clearances, as well as 1.9 fouls, Romeu is a proper, aggressive defensive midfielder, who won’t give Liverpool’s midfield an inch of space. That might make life tough for Adam Lallana, who is expected to return to the starting line up and will be Liverpool’s most prominent creative threat from midfield. If Lallana can slip off Romeu, he could cause Saints a lot of problems, but if he’s sufficiently shackled, it could be a long and frustrating day for the home side.
Joel Matip vs Manolo Gabbiadini
In his brief Southampton career, Gabbiadini has made a massive impact. He scored six goals in his opening four games, but since then has failed to register in the four following matches he’s played for the Saints. However, Gabbiadini has proven himself to be a clinical finisher and is likely to be a real threat leading the line. Liverpool have to stop the supply, but it’s also likely that Joel Matip will have to get tight to Gabbiadini. Matip has allowed himself to be turned too easily a couple of times in the last month or so, and will have to be on his guard as if he allows Gabbiadini to manufacture any space in the box, LFC could be in real trouble.