The FourFourTwo Preview: Liverpool vs Southampton
The Kevin Keegan derby (in 1980).
With the Premier League’s final 100 percent record ending in a topsy-turvy 2-2 blur at Swansea on Monday night, Liverpool can focus on maintaining their impressive start to the season. There’s trouble in paradise, however.
Deprived of playmaker-in-chief Philippe Coutinho for six weeks with a damaged shoulder, Brendan Rodgers must find another way of joining the dots between midfield domination and attacking intent. When the Brazilian departed the Liberty after 55 minutes, the Reds had completed 48 of 66 passes in the final third, but only managed 4 of 11 thereafter. Much rests on Iago Aspas to replace Coutinho’s invention.
- Swansea 2-2 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 1-0 Man Utd (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-2 Notts County (LC)
- Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 1-0 Stoke (Prem)
- So'ton 0-0 West Ham (Prem)
- Norwich 1-0 So'ton (Prem)
- Barnsley 1-5 So'ton (LC)
- So'ton 1-1 Sunderland (Prem)
- West Brom 0-1 So'ton (Prem)
Chelsea loanee Victor Moses has brought left-wing thrust, providing a more muscular option than Liverpool’s cohort of impish midfield scuttlers, while Daniel Sturridge will want to score in his sixth successive game of the season. After a nervous debut, man-mountain centre-back Mamadou Sakho will want to restore the authoritative calm that the Reds' back four showed in its first three league games.
Two games without a goal, Southampton are yet to scale the heights their talented squad possesses this season. The excellent Dejan Lovren apart, new signings Victor Wanyama, Dani Osvaldo and last term’s record signing Gaston Ramirez have yet to gel.
Their spine remains as strong, however. Lovren and Mr Consistent Jose Fonte were especially strong in protecting keeper Artur Boruc during Sunday’s 0-0 draw with West Ham, with Luke Shaw an energetic outlet from left-back. Though lacking the lung-bursting dynamism of 2012/13, Morgan Schneiderlin is solid in midfield, winning nine of 11 tackles against the Hammers, with beetroot-packer-turned-England-international Rickie Lambert a constant menace up front.
If Mauricio Pochettino can find a way to shoehorn Osvaldo, Ramirez and captain Adam Lallana – arguably the Saints’ best player this season – in the same team, they could cause Liverpool problems.
Coutinho (shoulder), Glen Johnson (ankle) and Aly Cissokho (ankle) all remain out until late October, while Rodgers will hope Daniel Agger’s strained side – sustained trying to stop a bar bell falling on his foot in the gym – recovers in time. Kolo Toure may deputise at right-back. Luis Suarez serves the last match of his biting ban.
Bar Danny Fox, Pochettino has a fully-fit squad from which to pick his XI.
Key battle: Daniel Sturridge v Dejan Lovren
Impressively clinical since January’s move from Chelsea, Sturridge’s all-round play has been a vital cog in Liverpool’s fine start to the season. Spotting Jonjo Shelvey’s backpass, the English centre-forward is adding penalty-box alertness to his already sizeable skill set.
Against West Ham, Croatian defender Lovren won every tackle, made every clearance and won seven of nine aerial duels. He'll have to be at his best to keep the slippery Sturridge at bay.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Southampton 3-1 Liverpool (Prem, Mar 13)
- Liverpool 1-0 Southampton (Prem, Dec 12)
- Southampton 2-0 Liverpool (Prem, Jan 05)
- Liverpool 1-0 Southampton (Prem, Dec 04)
- Southampton 2-0 Liverpool (Prem, Mar 04)
The last time this pair met, Pochettino inspired a 3-1 win from his charges, with Liverpool lethargic and unable to deal with the Saints’ excellent movement. Both the Argentine and Rodgers demand attractive football, so it should be an entertaining spectacle.
Facts and figures
- Daniel Sturridge is the first player in Liverpool’s Premier League history to score in the team’s opening four games of a season.
- Southampton have won four of the last six league games against Liverpool, but the Reds have won the last two at Anfield by a 1-0 scoreline.
- In the last five league meetings between the Saints and Liverpool, the Merseysiders have scored three goals, all between the 43rd and 45th minutes.
- Southampton have scored just four goals in their last nine league matches.
- The Saints have played three teenagers in two of their league fixtures this season, something Liverpool did six times last season (a divisional high).
- Lucas has been booked in each of his last three league appearances. He has never been booked in four successive Premier League games.
- Southampton have averaged the second highest possession figure this season (59.1%), Liverpool are only ninth (48.1%).
- Southampton have allowed only nine shots on target this season - fewer than any other side, while Liverpool have conceded the second most (22).
- Sturridge has scored the third and fourth fastest goals of the season so far (versus Man Utd and Swansea respectively).
- Rickie Lambert has had eight headed shots in the Premier League this season; three more than Liverpool have in total (5).
- All five of Liverpool’s league goals this season have come before half-time.
A tight game, but Liverpool just to shade a 2-1 win.