Martin Skrtel vs Graziano Pelle is a heavyweight clash that could prove crucial at Anfield on Sunday, writes Alex Keble...
Jurgen Klopp has immediately injected new life into Liverpool, but the frenzied pressing his tactical system will – in time – demand could lead to an over-enthusiastic approach from his players. Southampton’s improving threat on the counter, thanks to the excellent form of Graziano Pelle, could ruin Klopp’s first league game at Anfield.
It is well documented that Liverpool ran further than they have in any other game this season, becoming the first team to outrun Spurs this season. A similar scenario can be expected on Sunday. However, Southampton have become a very efficient counter-attacking team thanks to Steven Davis’s long balls forward and Pelle’s ability to hold up the ball for those around him. The 3-1 victory at Chelsea was arguably their most efficient example of this long-ball, clinical strategy.
Martin Skrtel will be charged with challenging Pelle when opportunities for Davis-inspired counters arise. Skrtel wins 3.2 aerial duels per match at a 72% success rate, while Pelle wins 3.7 at an 80% success rate. Skrtel won 8 headers against Spurs in his first Klopp game; he will need to hit similar numbers to stunt Southampton on Sunday. Liverpool’s main attacking threat may be Adam Lallana, a man whose intelligence in possession and positional awareness should make him a favourite of the new manager. His form has been poor this season, but a new boss brings a fresh start psychologically; against his former club, this is the perfect time for Lallana to prove he was worth the £25 million price tag.