Liverpool kept the pressure on Manchester City with a last-gasp winner against Spurs, and in doing so secured a win in arguably their most difficult remaining league game. However, next up is a different kind of test against a Southampton side scrapping for points any way they can, and the Reds don’t have a great record at St Mary’s, winning just one of their last four, although that win was last season. So what are the key battles ahead of this game?
Fabinho vs James Ward-Prowse
The young English star has been flying in recent weeks, and with six goals is Southampton’s second top scorer. The Reds should be wary of giving away set-pieces in decent areas, as Man United have found out the hard way. That’s where Fabinho will be important, not just in ensuring he keeps his discipline, but in keeping one of the key cogs in Southampton’s side quiet from open play. His transitional play is exceptional, and given how Saints play, he could be the most important player in ensuring Liverpool can get on the front foot and score goals.
Roberto Firmino vs Jan Bednarek
Speaking of important players, hello Bobby Firmino. Bobby is in a good patch of form, form that Liverpool will be hoping he’s able to sustain until the end of the season, and when he plays the way that he is, he’s absolutely vital to the way Liverpool attack. Bednarek has been one of Southampton’s most consistent players this season, but it’s fair to say that if Bobby can drop into pockets of space then he can really exploit the Saints’ centre-backs. Bobby was one of the key men to dispatching the Saints in their 2-0 win last season, and Klopp will be hoping that he can turn in a similarly impressive performance again in this game.
Joël Matip vs Nathan Redmond
Nathan Redmond has started 30 of Southampton’s 31 games, coming off the bench in the other. Of Saints’ outfield players, nobody is even close to him in terms of game-time – he’s quite simply ever-present. His goal return is incredibly paltry all things considered (3 goals and 3 assists), but on his day he can be a real handful, and off the left of a front two, he could isolate Joël Matip, who’ll be hoping to continue what has been a really strong run of form for him.
It’s fair to say that Saints haven’t had many strong individuals this season, however, which means that tactically, Klopp will be aware that the big win he needs to have is over Hasenhuttl, particularly given Saints’ strong recent showings against Spurs and United.