Liverpool will be keen to continue their excellent start to the season with another victory over Southampton. The South Coast team travel to Anfield on Saturday to face one of the most daunting tasks in English football at the time of writing and attempt to take something against a rampant Reds’ team. The home side come into the fixture off the back of beating PSG in the Champions League and they will be full of confidence on Saturday. Meanwhile, the visitors failed to beat Brighton on Monday, despite taking the lead on two occasions.
After just five games, Liverpool have already emerged as title contenders with maximum points. Only Chelsea have managed to match that record. It is too soon to fairly judge any of the 20 teams, but they have made a first great impression and another season of impressive recruiting has taken them to a new level. The most notable thing from their start has been the improvement of those already at the club, such as Joe Gomez, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum. They have upped their games in response to the business being conducted by the club and they are being given regular starts as a reward. There is now real competition for places at Anfield and that can only be considered a positive.
Southampton were tipped for another season of struggle under Mark Hughes, but they will be quietly pleased with their start. They have taken five points and have performed well. Supporters will feel frustrated that they couldn’t hold on to their lead against Brighton, but there is a lot more reason to be positive than there was last season under Mauricio Pellegrino. Although Danny Ings won’t be able to feature against his parent club, the striker has emerged as a positive for the Saints with three goals already.
Roberto Firmino has been involved in 61 Premier League goals since Jurgen Klopp took over. This is 16 more than any other player.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has scored in his last two matches for Southampton, which is as many as he managed in his previous 102 appearances in Europe’s top five leagues.
The attacker has had a good start to the season and he will be looking to keep that going against his former club. Mane has scored four goals in the Premier League, which is more than any other Liverpool player to date. The relationship that he has developed with Mohamed Salah and Firmino means that the Reds have one of the most dangerous front-lines in the world. That was evident against PSG, both in terms of goal threat and work rate. The visitors’ front three posed a threat, but their lack of energy when out of possession weakened their ability to keep Liverpool out. Jurgen Klopp’s side don’t have that issue as each of his front three work tirelessly for the team. The Senegalese international currently averages 1.8 ball recoveries per game, which emphasises this point. On Saturday, the home side will look to play at their usual relentless pace and they will cause a lot of problems for a team that were battling relegation last season.
There will be a greater expectation on Mario Lemina to be a star player for Southampton this season. There are no doubting his credentials, as he has previously played at the highest level with Juventus. There is a feeling that he could be the next player that is sold to a top-six team from Southampton if he performs consistently in the Premier League. He will have the hunger to play at a higher level again in the future, but he must first thrive on the South Coast. The midfielder operates from box-to-box, with both creative and defensive instincts. This season, he has won 2.2 aerial duels per game and completed 85.3% of his passes. This displays both his physical and technical abilities. For Southampton, he is most pivotal when it comes to dominating in the midfield areas. He is currently averaging 5.6 ball recoveries per game and he will have to be at his best on Saturday if the visitors are to have a chance to getting anything from the game.
Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino are expected to return to the starting eleven. Adam Lallana could be in contention to return to the first-team squad against his former club as he steps up his recovery from a groin strain. Dejan Lovren remains a week or two away from a return. Meanwhile, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is on the long-term injury list.
Danny Ings will be unavailable against his parent club. This is a major blow for Southampton, but Charlie Austin is likely to start in his place. Manolo Gabbiadini could return to the squad after his recent injury.
Mark Hughes will go to Anfield with every intention of securing a positive result, but it will be extremely difficult as Liverpool are in great form. They have outplayed Tottenham and PSG in the last seven days. It would be a surprise if they were to drop points against Southampton. A convincing home victory by two or three goals is the likely result. This will send a real statement that the Reds should be taken seriously as title contenders.
Liverpool 3-0 Southampton