After last week's encouraging draw away to Tottenham, Liverpool continue their difficult league stretch at home against Southampton tomorrow. Despite pulling the double over Southampton last year, the Reds only managed to finish 2 points and one position ahead of the Saints.
Jake from St. Mary's Musings was kind enough to sit down and answer some pressing questions about Southampton.
The Liverpool Offside: Southampton and Liverpool enter Sunday's clash even on points, albeit with the Saints holding a +5 goal differential over the Reds. From afar the Saints appear to have overcome their difficult start, with only one defeat since August 30, a 2-3 loss to Manchester United. How does this year's squad compare to last year's (which it must be noted, finished higher than any other Southampton squad in the Premier League era)?
St. Mary's Musings: It's really hard to gauge what kind of season Southampton will have and how strong the squad is right now. Last season, we also had a bit of a shaky start (with an unlucky 2-1 loss to your boys!) so the optimist in me wants to believe we can at least match our 7th place finish of last year.
However, whenever you think things are rosy at Saints reality likes to strike us down - our 2-2 home draw with Leicester being a perfect example after throwing away a comfortable two-goal lead in the second half.
We lost some key players this summer - including Nathaniel Clyne to yourselves - so it's not easy to tell how our squad compares to that of last season.
TLO: No Southampton-Liverpool exchange would be complete without asking when the next Liverpool raid will take place, and who are we going to get?
SMM: God knows. Any Saints player who has a half-decent season will catch eyes from the "bigger" clubs. Hopefully Klopp would rather some German talent to poach rather than our stars.
TLO: Moving past those unnecessary quotations...Follow up: is it too late for a Dejan Lovren refund?
SMM: No. No way! With the benefit of hindsight, Jose Fonte made Lovren look the part in the heart of the Southampton defence. Saying that, at the time a lot of Saints fans were upset at the move (especially how Lovren carried himself) so there is a half-decent player in there somewhere.
TLO: How exactly have you not sold Jimmy-boy over there yet?
SMM: James Ward-Prowse? I would advise you to watch a few of his games before forming an opinion on the player. He really does flatter to deceive. He is slow, weak and not particularly good on the ball when in play. I'm rooting for him to develop into the player his potential promised, but I'm not holding my breath.
INSIDE INFO: The lowdown from a Liverpool fan
We get Liverpool Offside writer Zachary Marx's take on Sunday's clash between Southampton and the Reds.
TLO: Southampton has produced some extremely talented footballers out of their academy over the last decade. Who will be the next youth academy darling to come out of Southampton?
SMM: It's hard to say as the nature of our academy and recruitment means we often have some late bloomers - Gareth Bale being the perfect example of that. Ryan Seager has banged in the goals for Saints at youth level so it would be nice to see him included in the first time squad in the near future.
TLO: In the 1922-23 campaign, Liverpool won the first division whilst Southampton had an equally impressive accomplishment in the second division: the most mediocre campaign in the history of football. 14 wins, 14 draws, 14 losses. 40 goals scored, 40 conceded. And they finished 11th out of 22 teams. The current number of league games makes such a season an impossibility. Regardless, which is more likely to happen first, a repeat of the "Even Season," or Liverpool winning our 19th league title?
SMM: I wasn't aware of the even season! Amazing. Based on pure mathematics and probability, I'm going to have to go for another even season.
TLO: Harsh. Southampton lost out on a Europa League spot to FC Midtjylland, who in turrn have fared very well in their first three Europa League matches, accumulating 6 points and sitting in second place. Does that help take the sting out of your own failure to qualify for the competition? Would Saints fans rate this failure to qualify as a disappointment or as a blessing in disguise?
SMM: It depends on who you ask and there is definitely a case to be made that our squad - significantly more shallow than that of league rivals Liverpool and Tottenham - will be able to cope with league pressures more comfortably thanks to dropping out of the Europa League.
However, most Saints fans I know were truly gutted to have not been able to enjoy a proper run in one of the European cups. This was our first foray into European football in 12 years so it was a big deal to us. But, we more than met our match against FC Midtjylland, who really bossed both legs in our knockout round.
One point I would make is we were so close to avoid Europa League heartbreak if it wasn't for the fingertips of Simon Mignolet. If he hadn't tipped Morgan Schneiderlin's shot onto the bar to prevent a late Saints equaliser at Anfield last season, Southampton would have finished above Liverpool on goal difference and would have avoided the qualification rounds altogether!
TLO: Bummer. Oh well, it's in the past. Prediction for the future (i.e. tomorrow's game)?
SMM: I'm going for 1-1. We benefit from a week's rest while you had to play on Thursday, but it's not enough to earn all three points at Anfield.
TLO: Thanks for stopping by! Good luck, but you know, not really!
Hey TLOers, you can find my answers to Jake's questions right here!