Venue – Anfield, Liverpool
Referee – Paul Tierney
Date & Time – Saturday, September 22nd @ 15:00
Current Odds – Liverpool 1/5, Draw 11/2, Southampton 12/1
Feast your eyes on the table below. The Reds have now won their first six games of the season. The last two were against Spurs and PSG. This team is the real deal. No, I’m not jumping the gun. They’ve shown us they’re the real deal since late last October. Liverpool’s form since then has been that of a top-level team. This continued on Tuesday night with a good, hard-fought win over Paris Saint Germain. The trick now, for Jurgen Klopp’s men, is to keep the focus on one game at a time. Starting with Southampton on Saturday, Liverpool have the task of keeping pace with Chelsea and staying two points clear of Manchester City. Southampton won’t be any pushovers, however. They are unbeaten in their last three games, winning both of their most recent away fixtures – at Crystal Palace and at Brighton (League Cup). But you wouldn’t bet against these Reds, would you?
Mark Hughes’ team have recovered after an initially shaky start to their campaign. On Monday night, they were involved in an entertaining draw at home to Brighton in the league. The xG stats below show that The Saints just about shaded the game in terms of quality scoring chances. They were very impressive at Crystal Palace at the start of the month, winning 2-0 and with an xG of 3.08 compared to Palace’s xG of 1.37 in that game.
Liverpool Team News
Klopp is without Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana this weekend while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continues his long road back from injury which will hopefully see him return towards the end of this season. Dominic Solanke is a slight doubt but should be recovered enough to make the squad. Bobby Firmino passed his eye-test with flying colours after an injury-time winner against PSG on Tuesday night so he will be chomping at the bit to get his starting place back off Daniel Sturridge for Saturday.
It will be an interesting selection this weekend as it is probably the first game of the season where I expect Klopp to utilise more of the squad. Fabinho made his official debut in the dying moments against PSG and I expect him to get his first start on Saturday. James Milner continues to defy belief with his stamina but this game with Southampton may be the ideal time to give those weary legs some time off with some more huge games on the horizon. Klopp won’t want to tinker with a winning team too much so the midfield will probably consist of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita. Gini Wijnaldum had another good game in midweek but, like Milner, may need to be rested before the upcoming trips to Chelsea and Napoli.
The defensive lineup should remain the same, I hope. Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk have been forming a formidable partnership and more time playing together is what they need. Dejan Lovren faces a mammoth task to get back into this starting eleven when he is fit again.
Mohamed Salah looks a little out of sorts at times, this season. I felt he had a good first half on Tuesday night but then seemed to lack confidence in the later stages of the game, gifting possession to PSG for Kylian Mbappe’s equaliser shortly before he was taken off. Klopp may well give Xherdan Shaqiri a start on Saturday or else Daniel Sturridge could keep his place up front with Firmino returning to flank Sturridge on the opposite side to Sadio Mané. Although, Sturridge did drift a lot deeper against PSG and spent a lot of time on the left, too. So, a front three of Mané on the right with Firmino central and Sturridge just dropping deep to the left could well be on the cards. The beauty of squad depth, eh?!
Southampton Team News
Southampton have no present injury concerns. They are, however, without Danny Ings as, technically, he is still only on loan at The Saints, though he will be signing permanently at the end of the loan deal. For now, Ings is not allowed to play against his parent club, Liverpool.
Hughes lined his team up in a 442 shape for Monday’s draw at home to Brighton. I’d expect them to have a more compact midfield for the trip to Anfield, though. A 451 shape is most likely with either Shane Long or Charlie Austin leading the line, up front. Steven Davis will probably get the nod to take the extra place in central midfield, alongside Mario Lemina and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
At the back, it will be a case of the usual suspects with Alex McCarthy between the sticks, Cedric Soares and captain, Ryan Bertrand, in the fullback positions, while giant centre-back, Jannik Vestergaard partners Wesley Hoedt in the middle of the back four.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson(c), Keita; Mané, Firmino, Sturridge
Southampton XI (4-5-1) – McCarthy; Cedric, Vestergaard, Hoedt, Bertrand(c); Elyounoussi, Lemina, Davis, Hojbjerg, Redmond; Long
When they last met
Liverpool took six points from The Saints, last season, winning 3-0 at Anfield and 2-0 at St Mary’s. Mo Salah scored a brace at Anfield with Philippe Coutinho adding a third in the second half. The Reds had failed to beat Southampton in the previous three Anfield meetings, however, drawing two and losing 1-0 at home in the League Cup semi-final second leg. Shane Long grabbed a very late winner that night to send Southampton to Wembley.
Liverpool 2 – 0 Southampton
As is often the case after a tough European fixture, Saturday could see a slightly lacklustre Liverpool performance. I think we will do enough to get over the line, though, and our ever-improving defence should cope well with Southampton’s advances. I’d back another goal for Sturridge in a 2-0 win for The Reds.
** Please note – “xGA” in the Form Stats tables symbolises “expected goals against” **
**All xG stats courtesy of Understat.com