Another Tough Test at St. Mary’s
Southampton have no new injury concerns but will continue to be without Charlie Austin and Matt Targett, although it is questionable whether either would’ve made the starting XI anyway.
Mauricio Pellegrino, who made 12 appearances for Liverpool and spent four years at Anfield as a coach under Rafa Benitez, will most likely pick the same team that defeated West Brom last week. The likes of Maya Yoshida and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg will probably have to settle for the bench, while Steven Davies is another option in midfield or behind the striker. Guido Carrillo will make only his second appearance for the club since his move from Monaco and should start ahead of both Shane Long and Manolo Gabbiadini.
Joe Gomez is the only new injury to crop up for Liverpool, a slight knock to the knee will see him miss this game, while Nathaniel Clyne remains out of the picture. Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno and Adam Lallana could all potentially return to the squad after rejoining the team in training.
Another tricky lineup to predict as Jurgen Klopp will undoubtedly have one eye on the midweek fixture against FC Porto in the Champions League. Southampton away is never an easy game though, and St. Mary’s is a ground where Klopp has struggled in the past. Klopp will rotate certain players, but will likely avoid sacrificing his front three. Dejan Lovren, Andy Robertson, James Milner and Jordan Henderson could all be rested while Moreno, Joel Matip, Gini Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could return to the starting XI. If Klopp wanted to take this rotation even further, then the likes of Simon Mignolet, Klavan, Lallana, Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings could be considered, but are less likely to feature, at least not from a starting position.
Unlike previous seasons under different managers, it is unlikely that Southampton will look to sit back and defend for 90 minutes. Pellegrino often plays more adventurous football against the bigger sides, and like Klopp often struggles against teams who do sit deep. However, despite being unbeaten in six games Southampton may seek to revert to their old ways in search of a vital draw as they find themselves only one point clear of the relegation zone. The likes of Mario Lemina and James Ward-Prowse are in top form and will be crucial to any success that Southampton may have in the game.
Liverpool need to produce a victory against a side who have become somewhat of a bogey team in recent years. Anything other than a win could potentially see the Reds slide into fifth place by the end of the round. Liverpool will hope to exploit holes left in the defence if Southampton attempt to drive forward through the likes of Lemina and Ward-Prowse. If they sit back though, some magic from the front three will be required to unlock their stubborn defence.
The result of this game will largely depend upon the tactics employed by Pellegrino and the amount of squad rotation that Klopp feels comfortable implementing. If Klopp fields a strong side and Pellegrino opts to play openly, then there is no reason Liverpool can’t punish the Saints. However, I’m expecting a tighter game, one that ends in a hard-earned, but ultimately comfortable 2-0 victory to the Reds.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 11/02/2018.