Liverpool continue their Premier League campaign against Southampton on Saturday, in their final game before the winter break. Jurgen Klopp has already stated that senior players will be given time off, despite the upcoming FA Cup replay against Shrewsbury Town. That is likely to mean that the Reds will be at full strength at the weekend. Like the home side, the Saints have an FA Cup replay to negotiate next week. However, they will still have one eye on the relegation picture and have their focus on the match at Anfield. Only one side has managed to take points off the league leaders, but Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men are much improved in recent weeks and have nothing to lose.
Following their victory during the week, Liverpool are now 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League table. Only the most pessimistic of supporters will believe that the title race isn’t over. The Reds have been relentless in their hunt for a first-ever Premier League title, failing to win only one match. There are still too many games left to talk about an unbeaten season, but there will be that extra motivation to break records after the title is mathematically secure. Another win this weekend will take them to 73 points, which is a remarkable haul at this stage in the season.
Southampton are now in the top half, which is remarkable considering many tipped them for relegation towards the end of 2019. They have taken ten points from their last five games and they will now have one eye on the teams above them. Manchester United in 5th position are only three points better off than Hasenhuttl’s side. It has been a remarkable turnaround, which shows how quickly a season can turn around. They will be full of confidence this weekend with no pressure on them. That makes them a dangerous opposition for Liverpool.
- Liverpool have now gone 41 Premier League matches without a defeat. If they avoid defeat on Saturday, it will be the joint-second longest unbeaten run in English top-flight history.
- Southampton have scored in their last nine matches across all competitions.
Following the injury to Sadio Mane, it was important that Mohamed Salah stepped up to lead the Liverpool attack. He did that against West Ham with a goal and an assist during the match. The Egyptian’s assist for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was a superb display of vision and technique, showing the creative qualities that he does possess. At times, he can be selfish in front of goal. That was evident in the recent match against Wolves, as he attempted several shots and wasted some good positions for his side. However, Jurgen Klopp won’t mind that as he understands that more often than not, Salah will produce the goods for his side. The 27-year-old has been very consistent since arriving at Anfield and he will want to pass 20 goals again. This would be the third successive season that he has reached that landmark if he is successful. He currently has 12 goals, but there will be hope that he can finish the season strongly. The 27-year-old has scored five times against Southampton since moving to Liverpool and he will look to add to that on Saturday.
In another lifetime, Danny Ings managed to make a success of his Liverpool career. He looks to be the type of player that would thrive under Jurgen Klopp, but injuries prevented him from making a big impact at Anfield. The move to Southampton has allowed him to rebuild his career, with this season seeing him return to his best form. He currently has 14 goals to his name and like Salah, he will have his eyes on the 20-goal landmark. It would be the first time that he has managed to reach it in his Premier League career. The timing is perfect, as he looks set to earn an England recall just months before the European Championships. If he maintains his goal-scoring form, it is likely that he will have a place in the squad this summer. Liverpool have been very good defensively in recent weeks, keeping eight clean sheets in their last nine Premier League matches. Southampton have been finding the net on a regular basis in the same period and talisman Ings has been central to that. His former club will be wary of his threat at the weekend.
This will come too soon for Sadio Mane, but he is expected to be back after the international break. It is hoped that Divock Origi will be fit to start again, but Takumi Minamino will be on standby. James Milner, Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri are all doubts for the home side.
Shane Long and Jannick Vestergaard could be back to feature for the visitors. Yan Valery is facing a race to be passed fit in time to feature. Stuart Armstrong is likely to miss out.
It is very difficult to back anything other than a Liverpool win in any fixture that they take part in. They are a well-oiled machine, with the players knowing how to manage match situations to prevent their opposition from having many chances. Southampton can pose a threat and it is a dangerous game for Liverpool, but they should have more than enough to win, especially at home.
Liverpool 3-1 Southampton