SOUTHAMPTON VS LIVERPOOL: PREVIEW
There’s no time to celebrate a second trophy of the season as Liverpool turn their attentions to the Premier League. They face a quick turnaround after a gruelling final against Chelsea as they travel to Southampton tomorrow. Here’s a preview of the game.
Jürgen Klopp suggested in the buildup to the FA Cup final that he’d make lots of changes against Southampton depending on City’s result at West Ham. With the Hammers holding Guardiola’s side to a 2-2 draw, it will be interesting to see how the gaffer approaches this.
This season has seen the Reds play every single one of the 60 available matches so far. In extra time at Wembley you could see the players having to dig deep to get over the line. Not to mention key figures like Salah and Van Dijk going off injured.
There is a chance to take the title race to the final day though and it is an opportunity the Reds can’t afford to let slip. Victory over the Saints will mean City have to beat Steven Gerrard’s Villa at the Etihad to clinch the title. With Coutinho and Ings all adding more layers to the plot, we could see a crazy ending to this race.
The Reds must make sure they put themselves in a position to capitalise on any last day slip ups. They have come too far to falter now. If we’re being truthful to ourselves, this has been City’s title to lose since that defeat at Leicester in late December.
That we have delayed their coronation and threatened to snatch the title from their grasp is testament to the mentality Klopp usually speaks about. The mentality monsters have somehow chased City down whilst juggling the Cup competitions, with two already in the bag and a third final to come.
Tomorrow night is a chance to sow a little seed of doubt in the back of City’s collective mind. A fatigued Liverpool is expected to struggle at a ground they suffered defeat at last season. It is a tough ask to expect the Reds to go again and get three more points on the board after a such a tough schedule.
Go again they must. We can’t let City off the hook. If they want to win the title, they’ll have to do it the hard way by beating Villa on the final day to clinch it. Rotated side or not, the Reds know only victory will suffice. It helps that they’ve won 8 of their last 9 across all competitions.
Southampton themselves are in dire straits at the minute. They’ve lost 8 of their last 11 matches across all competitions, with their only victory in that run coming against Arsenal. That win is their sole victory in their last six at home, suffering five defeats in that spell.
Ralph Hassenhuttl’s men currently lie 15th in the table on 40 points, just 4 above Everton. They are safe from relegation and don’t really have much to play for, but with this being the last home game of the season you can expect them to raise their game. Liverpool bring that out of Premier League teams it seems.
Just five weeks ago the Saints lost 6-0 at home to Chelsea. They will turn into 1970 Brazil tomorrow night though, of that you can be sure. The Reds will have to earn it the hard way, like they have in recent weeks against Everton, Newcastle and Villa.
In the reverse fixture, the Saints gave Klopp’s men a good test but succumbed to a 4-0 defeat at Anfield. The game was much closer than the scoreline suggests. They created as many big chances (3) as Liverpool did but Alisson Becker thwarted them at every turn whilst Jota punished them at the other end.
Hassenhuttl sets his team out to press high and make it intense. It is a style that always makes it an end to end game when these two meet. That defeat at St. Mary’s last season was the Reds’ first in their last nine against Southampton. It also ended a run of three straight victories at the St. Mary’s.
For Liverpool, Van Dijk, Fabinho and Salah are all out with minor injuries. The manager will check on the conditioning of the rest of his squad. He is likely to run the changes as he aims to name a side with enough energy to match Southampton. Gomez, Milner, Jones and Firmino are all likely to start.
For the Saints, Stuart Armstrong and goalkeeper Fraser Forster will be assessed ahead of the game. The duo missed training with back and knee pain. Young full back Livramento has had a successful surgery after a season ending knee injury.
The veteran was brought on midway through the second half of the FA Cup final and played well. He will likely be asked to deputise for Henderson in the holding role with Fabinho still out. At 36, he doesn’t have the pace to get across to cover his fullbacks but will have to use all his experience to do a job for the side.
The 27 year old has been exceptional for the Saints this season, so much so that he’s been nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award. He’s scored 9 league goals and laid on 5 assists this season. 4 of those goals came via direct free kicks as he chases down Beckham’s all time record. He’s a huge threat from set pieces.
Only Bruno Fernandes (89), Trent Alexander-Arnold (84) and Kevin De Bruyne (82) have created more chances than James Ward-Prowse (71) in the Premier League this season.
With Mo out, Sadio and Luis due a breather, Diogo could come to the fore here. He will lead the charge alongside Bobby Firmino in attack and carry most of the goalscoring burden. He hasn’t scored in any of his last ten appearances but looked sharp at Wembley and is surely due a goal.
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