Verdict: Mohamed Salah to score
Best odds: 6/10
In the 13th round of the Premier League roller coaster, Anfield will see Liverpool play host to Southampton, until recently their most regular feeder club, on Saturday afternoon. Two players who arrived to Merseyside directly from St. Mary’s still remain vital for the Reds – Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk, but the likes of Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Nathaniel Clyne all made the same switch in recent years too, before moving on. Striker Danny Ings, currently at Aston Villa, made his way in the opposite direction in 2018.
Following an impressive start to the season, Liverpool hit a bit of a slump which enclosed the latest international break, but then they bounced back with superb performances both in the Premier League and the Champions League.
Still, Jurgen Klopp’s team can’t be too happy with the results of their last six matches in all competitions. Those were 0-2 win away to Preston North End in the Carabao Cup, a 2-2 draw at home against Brighton and Hove Albion, a 2-0 win at home over Atletico Madrid, a 3-2 defeat away to West Ham (their only loss of the season in any competition so far), a 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal, and a little surprising 2-0 win over FC Porto.
Though the six-time European champions obviously have much more quality in their ranks than Porto, the positive result from the match was far from given in advance as it meant nothing to them in the competitive sense; they had already secured the top spot in the group beforehand. Manager Jurgen Klopp indeed fielded a rotated lineup, including a full Champions League debut to 18-year-old midfielder Tyler Morton, but the team still proved too strong for the opposition. Thiago Alcantara and Mohamed Salah both scored superb goals to make it five out of five for their team.
Over in the Premier League, things aren’t looking as good as in Europe. Liverpool are currently third with 25 points from 12 matches, one less than defending champions Manchester City and four less than Chelsea in the lead. This match against the Saints is therefore imperative to win; they wouldn’t want the gap increased.
Liverpool are currently without midfielders Naby Keita (hamstring), Harvey Elliott (ankle dislocation/fracture) and Curtis Jones (eye injury), defender Joe Gomez (calf) and forward Roberto Firmino (hamstring).
Van Dijk and left-back Andy Roberton are set to return to the lineup having been rested against Porto. Jordan Henderson and Fabinho came on off the bench, but both are likely to start this time. The same goes for Diogo Jota upfront, with Takumi Minamino making way. The only dilemma at this point seems to be whether Thiago or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both on fine form, will keep their place in the middle of the park.
The recent form of Southampton practically looks the opposite of that of Liverpool. They were on a fine run, which eventually ended with what can only be described as the most disappointing defeat imaginable.
They beat Leeds United at home by 1-0, drew 2-2 at home against Burnley, drew with the same scoreline in the Carabao Cup against league leaders Chelsea (eventually lost on penalties), triumphed 0-1 away to Watford, and beat Aston Villa at home by 1-0. And then they lost 2-1 away to bottom-of-the-table Norwich City last week.
Southampton’s hopes were high as Che Adams put them ahead at Carrow Road after less than four minutes. The same amount of time was, however, needed for Teemu Pukki to equalize, and it was Scotland defender Grant Hanley who scored the winning goal for the Canaries with just over 10 minutes to go.
Nonetheless, it cannot be doubted that Ralph Hasenhuttl has built a decent team, organized very well from back to front, which has every chance of avoiding a late relegation scramble. The Saints are 13th at the moment, with 14 points to their name. That’s five more than Burnley topping the relegation zone, with Brentford, Aston Villa, Watford (all 12 points) and Leeds (11) squeezed in between.
Hasenhuttl is able to welcome back wingers Moussa Djenepo and Nathan Redmond to the fold, with the former recovered from an unspecified injury and the latter missing the Aston Villa and Norwich clashes through personal reasons. Defender Jack Stephens remains out through a knee injury, as does midfielder Stuart Armstrong due to a calf problem.
If the managers deems them ready to start, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Ibrahima Diallo are the obvious candidates to make way. Adams should be paired up with Adam Armstrong upfront again. Jan Bednarek and Mohammed Salissu should form the centre-back partnership, flanked by teenage sensation Tino Livramento and Kyle Walker-Pieters.
Anything but a comfortable Liverpool win would surely be a great surprise. Mohamed Salah is the likeliest man to get on the scoresheet, with 17 strikes from as many matches in all competitions this term (11 in 12 in the Premier League).
Verdict: Mohamed Salah to score
Best odds: 6/10
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