Liverpool will be hoping to keep their hopes of a top four finish in the Premier League alive when they face off against Southampton this weekend at Anfield.
Liverpool will be hoping to close the gap to the top four in the Premier League table when they lock horns with Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton side at Anfield in Matchweek 35 on Saturday night.
Liverpool, heading into the match, find themselves in the seventh place in the standings, seven points off of Chelsea in fourth, although the Reds do have a game in hand courtesy of their cancelled fixture against Manchester United last weekend due to protests at Old Trafford. Prior to that, though, Jurgen Klopp’s side had drawn three games in a row in all competitions, most recently being held to a 1-1 draw by Newcastle United.
With Chelsea set to face Manchester City earlier on Saturday, it offers Liverpool a chance to potentially cut down the gap to four points, which will further be reduced to just one if they win their game in hand. And, in Southampton, they will be up against a side that is certainly there for the taking following an appalling run of results since the turn of the year.
Indeed, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have won just three of their 11 league games since the turn of the year and are without a win in their last four in all competitions, although they did manage to hold Leicester City to a 1-1 draw last time out. As a result, the Saints have dropped down to the 16th place in the standings, but are safe from the threat of relegation, sitting ten points clear of the drop zone.
The reverse fixture, played at St. Mary’s Stadium, saw Southampton pick up a hard-fought 1-0 win over Liverpool. And ahead of their latest meeting this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
ℹ️ Jürgen Klopp has confirmed Nathaniel Phillips is fit and available for selection again👇
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 7, 2021
Liverpool continue to be without as many as six first-team players for the game with the defensive trio of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip unlikely to play again this season while captain Jordan Henderson also remains unavailable although he has stepped up his recovery. Divock Origi and Caoimhin Kelleher are the other two players unavailable for selection when Southampton come visiting.
Jurgen Klopp will continue to set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation on Saturday with Alisson Becker manning the Liverpool goal. The Brazilian will be shielded by the centre-back duo of Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips, who was named in the lineup for the cancelled Manchester United game after having missed the previous two encounters due to injury. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are guaranteed starters out wide.
With Phillips available again, Fabinho ought to return to his preferred role at the base of the Liverpool midfield from where he will look to cut out Southampton’s attempts at pushing forward. He will have support from Georginio Wijnaldum, who will be the workhorse in the centre of the park while Thiago Alcantara should get the nod over James Milner in the remaining slot in the middle in order to provide creativity on the pitch.
Moving up into the attacking third, Klopp will have to choose three from his four attacking options in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota. And it is likely that Jota is omitted from the starting XI in favour of the terrific trio that has not been all too terrific this season.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Thiago, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Southampton, too, will be without six players for their trip north to Anfield. Ryan Bertrand and Will Smallbone are out for the season for the Saints while former Liverpool striker Danny Ings also misses out due to a thigh injury.
Oriol Romeu and Michael Obafemi are closing in on their returns, but are unlikely to be rushed back against Liverpool. In addition, on-loan forward Takumi Minamino is ineligible to feature against his parent club.
Ralph Hasenhüttl's pre-match thoughts 💬
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) May 7, 2021
Ralph Hasenhuttl will set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation in front of Alex McCarthy, who will need to be at the top of his game to keep the Liverpool attackers out. Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard, who had his ban overturned after being sent off in the 1-1 draw against Leicester City, will form the central defensive pairing, with Kyle Walker-Peters and Jack Stephens slotting in as the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively.
The midfield bank of four will consist of Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse and Ibrahima Diallo at the centre, with the duo in charge of pressing the Liverpool midfielders intensely so as to negate their influence on the ball. Stuart Armstrong will be stationed out wide on the right flank, although he is likely to veer into the central areas more often than not.
Theo Walcott will be slotting in on the left flank from where he will look to make the most of the spaces left in behind by Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has gotten caught out defensively quite often this season. With Ings unavailable, Nathan Redmond and Che Adams ought to be the two centre-forwards against Liverpool.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Stephens; Armstrong, Diallo, Ward-Prowse, Walcott; Adams, Redmond
1. Over 9.5 Corners @ 1.72
2. Liverpool Clean Sheet – NO @ 1.66
1. James Ward-Prowse to score anytime @ 5.50
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last six home league games against Southampton (W4 D2), winning the last three by an aggregate score of 10-0.
- Southampton are looking to complete the league double over Liverpool for just the third time in their history, previously doing so in 1960-61 (Second Division) and 2003-04 (Premier League).
- Liverpool have conceded at least once in each of their last eight Premier League home games. Only twice have they had longer runs without a home clean sheet in the competition, going nine games between September – December 1996 and nine between December 1998 – May 1999.
- Southampton have earned fewer points than any other Premier League side so far in 2021 (11 – W3 D2 L13), with the Saints also conceding a league-high 40 goals so far this calendar year.
- Liverpool have won just six points from their last 30 available in Premier League home games (W1 D3 L6). They had only dropped 22 points from their previous 66 league games at Anfield (W55 D11 L0).
Player to Watch
Heading into the game, there have been all sorts of speculations surrounding the future of Mohamed Salah, with the Egyptian forward seemingly attracting interest from the La Liga giants while former club Chelsea are also said to be looking at him as a potential transfer target. His recent comments about a new contract offer not being on the table have only served to stir the pot further.
But given the crucial juncture of the season and the position that Liverpool are in, it is time for Salah to put the off-field matters aside and focus on dragging his side into the top four. Despite having not been at his belligerent best this season, the Reds’ superstar has managed 20 goals and 3 assists from 32 games and is just a goal shy of Harry Kane in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot.
Liverpool may not be winning any trophy this season, but Salah still is very much in with a shot for the honour of the top scorer and a strong finish to the campaign should help him secure a third Golden Boot in four seasons.
Liverpool 2-1 Southampton
Southampton have been in torrid form since the turn of the year which has reflected in their free fall in the Premier League table. Nevertheless, having managed to secure a draw against Leicester City last time out and having already beaten Liverpool once this term, they will be confident heading into Saturday’s clash.
At the same time, Liverpool have been poor at home in recent months, having won just one of their last ten league games at Anfield, which should further boost the Saints’ hopes. The absence of Danny Ings, however, will reduce their threat going forward even though they are likely to find the back of the net at least once.
Given that Southampton have been sloppy at the back since the turn of the year (40 league goals conceded in 2021), the Liverpool attack, even if it is not firing on all cylinders, should have enough to get the better of them on Saturday. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts a 2-1 win for the outgoing champions.