Liverpool have a chance to put the pressure on Manchester City this weekend as they travel to face Southampton on Friday night. Pep Guardiola’s men will be playing a FA Cup semi-final, which means the Reds need to take advantage this weekend. It won’t be an easy game for them as Ralph Hassenhuttl has improved Southampton and they will be desperate to perform well against the title contenders. Also taking the recent history between the two clubs, there will be an extra edge to the game, especially in the stands.
Southampton have moved clear of the relegation battle in the past week. They earned a huge three points last weekend against Brighton and it has eased the pressure on them heading into the run in. They are far from safe, but their current five-point cushion does provide a margin for error for the rest of the campaign. This won’t be a fixture that they have to win and that pressure-free environment could help them deliver an impressive performance. They have nothing to lose, which makes them a dangerous opponent.
Liverpool managed to deliver another late match-winning moment against Tottenham last weekend. It is becoming a theme of their season and the narrative is beginning to build. Although it is difficult not to call one or two moments lucky, the Reds have earned their own good fortunes due to the aggressive style of play. There is a feeling that no game is beyond them and they are capable of pulling out these big moments when it matters. It will be building confidence behind the scenes and Manchester City will be very worried about the threat that Jurgen Klopp’s side pose in the title race. Every game has a feeling of must-win due to the quality of the side they are up against and Friday night will be no different.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has scored four times in the Premier League, which is double the amount he has scored across his previous six campaigns in league football.
Liverpool’s current total of 79 points is their best return after 32 matches in their Premier League history.
The defender has come to the fore under Hassenhuttl and continues to show consistency at the heart of the Southampton defence. Jan Bednarek has taken his time to break into the first eleven, but he is now one of the first names on the team sheet. He will be a relative unknown to many in this country. This Friday’s match provides an opportunity for him to emerge out of the shadows and increase his developing reputation. Liverpool have a dynamic attack that creates a lot of chances, which means there will be a lot of work for the centre back to undergo. Against Brighton, he made huge contributions as the club earned a credible clean sheet. He made three interceptions and made seven clearances as he more than played his part in the shut out. At the age of 22, he has huge potential and there is every chance that he earns Southampton a major windfall in the future if he continues to develop.
This season has been an odd one for Mohamed Salah. He continues to produce a huge number in the final third, but he has faced unfair criticism due to some comparing him to last season’s output. It would have been incredible for the Egyptian to reproduce those number this year. The fact that he has managed to contribute 17 goals and seven assists in the Premier League shows impressive consistency from Salah. In fact, he deserves tremendous credit as he is now being closely marked by opposition sides aware of the danger that he does pose. Although he continues to cause problems for opposition teams, it would be a major boost for Liverpool if he was to return to scoring ways against Southampton ahead of a massive few weeks in the club’s history. If he manages to do that, they will enter the closing weeks an even more dangerous outfit than they already are.
Shane Long could be back for Southampton to provide another attacking option. Jannick Vestergaard is unlikely to be ready to return to action. Michael Obafemi remains on the sidelines.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be back this month, but he won’t be ready to feature against his former club. Joe Gomez could be back, which would provide a major boost. Fabinho is expected to return to the starting eleven in central midfield.
This is going to be a lot more difficult for Liverpool than the league table would suggest. Southampton are a team that plays good football and they showed a few weeks ago that they can beat a top-six team in Tottenham. This will be a more difficult task, but they can take confidence from that victory. That said, Liverpool know that there is no room for error now and it is difficult to see them dropping points on Friday. Southampton 0-2 Liverpool