Southampton vs Liverpool
Venue: St. Mary’s
Referee: Andre Marriner
Southampton host Liverpool in their opening home game of the 2019/20 campaign this weekend.
The UEFA Super Cup winners will have every intention of extending their winning run to 11 games in the Premier League, equalling their longest ever winning streak in the top-flight; currently held by a Brendan Rodgers side of 2014.
The Saints have had a lot to work on this week as their opening game of the season was less than satisfactory, conceding three goals in 12 minutes against Burnley to lose 3-0. Their second game is not going to be any easier as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool will be eager to maintain their surge of momentum.
To many, the game may already be dead and buried. However, no side has beaten Liverpool, under Jurgen Klopp, more than Southampton. The Saints have been successful in three out of their last 11 meetings. Ralph Hasenhuttl will be eager to prove to the fans that he has changed the outlook of the club for the better, and that they will not be struggling in and around the relegation zone for the third season in a row.
After their performances against the top-six sides in the latter half of last season, an upset may well be on the cards as the Saints managed to pick up points against Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham. However, Klopp will be well aware of the dangers in the Southampton ranks and his side will be more than ready to retain this winning streak.
One player who will be more than ready for a battle on the south coast is Mohamed Salah. The attraction of the south must really give this already incredible professional a huge boost. In his last 11 appearances against sides on the south coast (Southampton, Bournemouth, Brighton) Salah has scored 14 and assisted three, and after stopping mid-week to get a photo with a young Liverpudlian boy chasing after his car, the Egyptian international is surely due some good karma. Southampton’s shaky defence looks like it is going to be put to the test, and that’s before you add Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane into the equation.
Southampton will be looking to rebuild after their shocking defeat to Burnley last week. Turf Moor certainly is not an easy place to travel to on the first day of the season, but losing three-nil is not the ideal situation for a manager trying to avoid the relegation zone.
Expectations were high for Hasenhuttl this season and the shaky defensive performance from the Saints has done anything but settle the minds of the Saints’ fans, especially with a deadly attack to face this week. Starting Jack Stephens seemed like a far-fetched choice, alongside Jannik Vestergaard having an uncharacteristically bad game resulted in a second-half capitulation.
Problems were not limited to the defence. Southampton spent most of the summer adding to their attacking arsenal, and their pre-season looked as though they would be dangerous. However, not a lot of that attacking flair was seen. Whether that was down to smart thinking from Sean Dyche or a lack of confidence from the players is irrelevant, there needs to be more from the attacking line-up that cost the Saints almost £50m.
Hasenhuttl has been criticised for his use of three centre-halves and two wing-backs but considering his opposition this weekend, five at the back may not be so harshly criticised, despite the game being at home. Pierre Emile Hojbjerg was also left out of the starting line-up when they travelled to Burnley, especially after being one of the most influential players in their turn around last season he would have every right to be wanting to start. A multitude of strange choices from the Austrian that will simply be punished given the gruelling nature of the Premier League.
Despite playing 120 minutes in Istanbul, Liverpool will be pumped full of confidence after their nerve-wracking penalty shout out win against Chelsea in mid-week. Despite the UEFA Champions Cup not being considered a major title, it is still a trophy under Klopp’s belt and a huge amount of experience for the players involved. With the chance to extend their Premier League winning streak to 11 games, the German coach will not be holding back.
Klopp will have no worries about deciding his front three for this game. Mane scoring two, both assisted by Firmino, and Salah’s record on the south coast are all concrete reasons for Klopp to start all three. It was promising to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the team sheet for their fixture against Chelsea, considering the horrendous injury that left him out of the majority of last season. This re-introduction will give Klopp another thing to think about as the Ox’s attacking flair may be what is missing from the midfield three that Klopp likes to use. However, that begs the question: Who does he drop?
Predicted Starting XIs
Southampton (3-4-1-2): Gunn; Bednarek, Vestergaard, Stephens; Valery, Hojbjerg, Ward-Prowse, Bertrand; Ings; Redmond, Adams
Liverpool (4-3-3): Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Mane, Salah, Firmino
Prediction: Southampton 0-4 Liverpool
Liverpool’s experience and quality will be used to full advantage against an already struggling Southampton side, with their front three causing all sorts of problems for Southampton’s shaky defence.