Southampton vs Liverpool
| Friday, April 5th |
Premier League | St Mary’s Stadium
8PM BST / 3PM EST
The Premier League season has six matchdays to go, and Liverpool are within a point of first place. With Manchester City and the Reds of Merseyside taking turns overtaking one another at the top of the table on a weekly basis, all signs point to a finish that will go right down to the wire, and one in which the team that places second will feel extremely hard done by.
At the other end of the table sit Southampton. 16th, five points clear of relegation, the Saints are in all likelihood safe from the terrors of the Championship, but having splurged on Jannik Vestergaard, Angus Gunn, Mohammed Elyounoussi and the upcoming transfer of Liverpool’s own Danny Ings — currently on loan — fans of the south coast club were undoubtedly hoping to avoid another season battling for their Premiership lives.
Getting rid of Mark Hughes was an important first step, and since appointing former RB Leipzig manager Ralph Hassenhüttl, the Saints have gone from averaging 0.64 points per game — seriously, why do people keep hiring that guy — to a far more reassuring 1.41.
It’s not all sunshine and laughing babies, though, and Southampton have consistently struggled to generate goals. With their top scorer — the aforementioned Ings — ineligible to play against his parent club, there is a chance that problem will be exacerbated on Friday night. Mario Lemina will miss out through injury, while Vestergaard sat out last week’s clash with Brighton and is unlikely to partake.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keïta; Mané, Firmino, Salah
Despite a stamp from a wildly misfiring Moussa Sissoko on Sunday, Virgil van Dijk looks set to marshal the Reds defence against his former team, with Joël Matip his most probable partner. Joe Gomez is back in training and Dejan Lovren is roasting team mates in crossbar challenges, but there seems to be little incentive to break up the current defensive unit.
In midfield one would think this match would be a good time to unleash Naby Keïta or Xherdan Shaqiri in order to generate some ball progression through the middle of the park, but we’ve said that before and been proven terribly wrong. Nonetheless, a rest for Jordan Henderson and James Milner wouldn’t be a bad idea if Jürgen Klopp insists on persisting with them through the next stage of the Champions League, where Porto await next week.
The front three is immutable and eternal, at least until some adequate backups are brought in this summer, and with the trio having combined for 46 league goals already, there is no reason to change the formula as the season gets to a head.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “I think they are eighth in the form table since he [Hassenhüttl] is in - the last 15 games at least. That means they are fighting for the league, that gives you good information about the intensity of the game probably.”
Ralph Hassenhüttl: “How they play is a perfect example of a physically strong team combined with the technical qualities, speed and good organisation, so you can think about why it is so hard to win against his team - only one team has done this and that is Manchester City.”
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistant referees: Stuart Burt, Darren Cann
Fourth official: Graham Scott
Kickoff is set for 8PM GMT/3PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.