The FourFourTwo Preview: Liverpool vs Southampton
“Rickie, Dejan and Adam’s housewarming party – all old friends invited. BYOB.”
- Liverpool 4-0 Dortmund (F)
- Man Utd 3-1 Liverpool (F)
- Milan 0-2 Liverpool (F)
- Man City 2-2p Liverpool (F)
- Olympiakos 0-1 Liverpool (F)
- So'ton 0-1 Leverkusen (F)
- Brighton 1-3 So'ton (F)
- Bournemouth 0-1 So'ton (F)
- Swindon 0-1 So'ton (F)
- Sporting Hasselt 0-6 So'ton (F)
It had to be, didn't it? Southampton still had something that resembled a team when the fixtures super computer booked them in for an opening-day visit to Anfield, but even then they had a fairly good idea of what was to come.
After all, Rickie Lambert had already shown off the shirt of his hometown team, while Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw informed the bedraggled south-coasters of their desires to leave before jetting off to Brazil. By the time Dejan Lovren had bawled his way to a £20 million move north at the end of July, the damage was complete.
Well, almost. Ronald Koeman looks to have kept Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez despite serious interest from Tottenham and a toys-out-the-pram Twitter meltdown from the former – but for how much longer is yet to be determined.
Since then the Dutchman has quietly gone about his arduous task of replacing the departed quartet, more or less plumping for like for like; Ryan Bertrand for Shaw, Dusan Tadic and Saphir Taider for Lallana; Graziano Pelle for Lambert, with goalkeeper Fraser Forster thrown in for good measure.
Shane Long will be pitching up at St Mary's too, with a £12m(!) bid accepted by Hull. Simply, the Saints won’t go down but a season of consolidation awaits.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have taken a leaf out of Tottenham’s book of replacing star men by bringing in eight new bodies to keep them warm for the cold, lonely nights of the new season at a cost of over £115m. Sorry Luis, they’re over you (just ignore that heart-shaped letter from a mystery ‘BR’ you got earlier, it’s nothing).
Will it be enough to win them the league? Er, no, if you ask everyone else. In fact, FFT’s fan-predicted table has the bruised Reds down for fifth after last season’s title slip-up (ahem), what with that gaping Luis Suarez-sized hole that’s still to be filled.
In this fixture last term, Lovren scored the only goal to sink Liverpool, and was so apologetic he joined them 10 months later. Southampton have actually won five of their last eight meetings, though obviously history counts for nothing when it’s playing for the opposition.
Lallana won’t be dancing at his own party, having damaged knee ligaments during pre-season. Fellow newbie Lazar Markovic has been nursing a hamstring injury but could feature, while Sunderland target Fabio Borini’s dicky shoulder could keep him out. Jon Flanagan and Oussama Assaidi (both knee) are out.
Southampton are without only Rodriguez. Which is nice for them.
Player to watch: Victor Wanyama (Saints)
With Schneiderlin "physically and mentally" unprepared for last weekend’s friendly defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, the Saints will surely be relying on the combative steel of Wanyama here.
It’s not been the greatest of summers for the 23-year-old powerhouse – police had to step in and save him from an angry mob after Kenya were knocked out of Africa Cup of Nations qualifying by lowly Lesotho – but now is his time to shine in the red and white, and capitalise on his French team-mate’s misery.
He’ll have to keep a close eye on Daniel Sturridge with a weaker central-defensive partnership behind him these days, not least with Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho causing problems inside sporadically too. His all-round performance against Manchester United on the final day of last season was strong: he outpassed everyone on the pitch and broke up play effectively with tackles and fouls. More of the same needed.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Saints 0-3 L'pool (PL, Mar 14)
- L'pool 0-1 Saints (PL, Sep 13)
- Saints 3-1 L'pool (PL, Mar 13)
- L'pool 1-0 Saints (PL, Dec 12)
- Saints 2-0 L'pool (PL, Jan 05)
Popular opinion might be against Rodgers and his men this season, but you won’t catch the Northern Irishman caving to it after his summer spree.
“It's a huge indication of the club’s progress - a really good symbol of where the club is at,” he beamed. “We have made huge strides in the last couple of years. That ability to attract top players is great.” Sadly for him, though, losing his main man has put the Reds on their knees from the get-go.
Premier League newbie Koeman looks a snug fit for the Saints hot seat, having dealt with a similar player turnover during his Eredivisie days; most recently, Feyenoord. The Dutchman has held firm over Schneiderlin’s proposed transfer since the player’s public outburst, declaring last week: “He will continue as a football player of Southampton. Now it is up to him."
Facts and figures
- 7 of Southampton’s last 8 opening games in the Premier League have been away from home. They have won just 2 of the previous 7 (D2 L3).
- Steven Gerrard ended the 2013/14 season with the most assists in the division (13) and is now fourth in the all time Premier League list with 91.
- Dusan Tadic created 133 goalscoring chances in the Dutch Eredivisie last season for FC Twente; 46 more than any other player.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Not a draw – there hasn’t been one between these two since Michael Owen and Kevin Davies shared the goals in January 2002. 3-0, with at least one goal from a Saint-turned-Red.