SOUTHAMPTON VS LIVERPOOL: PREDICTED LINEUP
Liverpool travel to St. Mary’s tonight hoping to cut the gap to Manchester City down to a single point ahead of the final round of fixtures. Ralph Hassenhuttl’s Saints outfit will look to cause problems with this being their last home game of the season. Here’s the predicted lineup.
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The Reds are coming off the back of another penalty shootout success over Chelsea at Wembley, this time in the FA Cup final. It was Liverpool’s 60th match of the season, and with the Champions League final less than two weeks away, we can expect changes tonight.
Fabinho is still unavailable after missing the final following a hamstring strain he sustained at Villa last week. Van Dijk and Salah meanwhile were taken off on Saturday with knocks that will see them miss out tonight.
It is a delicate balancing act for the manager as he seeks to pick a side strong enough to get the three points and keep pressure on City heading into the final day. At the same time he will be wary of risking any more fatigue related injuries to his key players.
Alisson will start in goal as usual. The Brazilian kept his 27th clean sheet in what was his 51st appearance of the season on Saturday. He is joint top of the Premier League Golden Glove race as well and will clinch the award if he keeps his sheets clean in the last two fixtures.
There will be a number of changes in defence. We can expect Gomez to fill in at right back with Trent playing each of the last four games across the span of 12 days, not to mention the full 120 minutes on Saturday. Gomez has played the role well in recent weeks and impressed at Newcastle last time out.
With Van Dijk unavailable, we should see the pairing that played in extra time on Saturday, with Matip partnering Konaté. Tsimikas can also be expected to come in at left back after Robertson was taken off in extra time with cramp.
Kostas of course netted the winning penalty on Saturday and will still be on a high. That could translate onto the pitch with his performance. This backline lined up together against Benfica a couple of weeks ago so should have a bit of a familiarity with each other at least.
With Fabinho still out and Hendo due a breather, we could see Milner line up in the holding role. It is a position he’s played before and he will have to be at his best to keep Ward-Prowse quiet. Either side of Millie will likely be Keita and Jones. It will be Naby’s third start in a week so he will probably be taken off at some point.
Having the skipper come on for him for the last half hour will be ideal as it’ll protect both players. Thiago, like the skipper, played the full 120 minutes on Saturday and should be nowhere near the squad tonight. The Spaniard is crucial to how we will approach the final in Paris and must be protected given his injury history.
In attack, Mané deserves a breather as well. He has started each of the last 9 matches and looked shattered in extra time on Saturday. Diaz has started five of the last six, coming off the bench at halftime in the only game he didn’t start. He looked knackered as well in extra time.
He will be raring to go again though, that’s testament to his sheer hunger for the game. He could be asked to do an hour or so before being taken off. Tonight is still a must win and the manager has to get the balance perfectly right. Should Diaz start, he will then be left out on Sunday against Wolves.
Completing the attack will then be Bobby Firmino, who marked his return from injury with a cameo off the bench on Saturday, and Diogo Jota. Diogo in that case will start on the right wing as Diaz’s game is severely hampered when he plays there. He is at his best cutting in from the left.
Origi could start if the gaffer feels tonight is one game too far for Luis. Failing that, he could come on for the Colombian to keep the energy and intensity levels up as the game wears on in the second half.
Alisson, Gomez, Matip, Konaté, Tsimikas, Milner, Keita, Jones, Jota, Firmino, Diaz.
Subs: Kelleher, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elliott, Mané, Origi, Minamino.