For a few seasons, Southampton were Liverpool’s bogey team. The Reds have had some demoralizing results over the years, including a 3-1 loss in March 2013, a 3-2 loss in March 2016, and a 2-0 aggregate loss in the League Cup earlier this year. While Crystal Palace have seemingly replaced the Saints as Liverpool’s fly in the ointment, relations with the Dorset club remain shaky. (Not least because of the former Southampton players currently donning a Liver Bird on their shirt.)
Southampton manager Claude Puel, of course, is aware of the simmering tensions between the two clubs. And in his press conference ahead of tomorrow’s crucial late-season clash, Puel laid out the framing of the game as he sees it: he knows Liverpool need to win, and that gives his side an edge.
“Liverpool want to play in the Champions League next season so it is an important game for them at home. Liverpool are a good team but I am sure we can have opportunities to win this game. It is always a good challenge. We have to stay focused on our game and have good organisation and good spirit. We need character to beat this team. We know this Liverpool team now.”
Of course, Puel admitted that this won’t be an easy game for his squad.
“They are different games, the last games were EFL Cup games. it was a home and away game, and now it is the Premier League.”
Southampton is always a tricky fixture, and the stakes for the Reds don’t make this any less nervewracking. The visitors know what tomorrow means to us. Liverpool are going to have to get the job done, no matter what Southampton do to throw a wrench in the works.