LIVERPOOL VS. SOUTHAMPTON
| Saturday, May 8th |
Premier League | Anfield
8:15PM GMT/3:15PM EST
Though Southampton have been struggling recently (with two wins in their last five), they did manage a draw against Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester last time out despite playing with ten men, coming back from 0-1 down to equalize with a Ward-Prowse penalty on 61’. This mentality is what they’ll want to face Liverpool, who have played a game on repeat of late wherein they start strong, waste chances (managing a goal, usually, when they could have far more) before conceding in the second half.
Liverpool will hope their unexpected break has reset performances, and despite their draw last time out, Southampton might hope the same: in their subsequent three loses they managed to score only one goal, conceding six.
The Saints come into the final two weeks of the season in 15th on 37 points (level on points with Brighton in 14th), though they have a game in hand. While they’re not quite safe from the drop as it stands, their final four games are against Crystal Palace, Fulham, Leeds, and West Ham. Given the mix of quality, this match is not a must-win for Hassenhüttl’s men.
Daniel Ings, their leading scorer (11) remains out for another week, and Ryan Bertrand remains sidelines as well. Oriol Romeu is questionable, and will be assessed late on Friday.
Their attacking sharpness is therefore dented somewhat, though Liverpool will still have to worry about James Ward-Prowse’s set piece magic (7 goals, just one coming from open play), and Che Adams (7 goals scored) has been lively making things tick in the lead-up to goals. Adams will be one to target to stifle the Saints attack, and the Reds will need to be careful to avoid giving up free kicks in dangerous areas.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Mané
This might be a chance to see Jürgen Klopp pick his strongest side without managing fitness concerns, as the Manchester United fan protest has given the Reds quite a lengthy breather. The midfield is one to watch: it has seemed as though Klopp has been managing Thiago’s minutes carefully (that he didn’t start either leg against Real Madrid is certainly interesting), but he should get the nod alongside Fabinho and a hopefully refreshed Gini Wijnaldum.
Of course, due to the rescheduling of the very Manchester United game that gave so many players — like Nat Phillips, who has returned to fitness — much-needed rest, Liverpool will now play five games in the last two weeks of the season. As such, the lineup against Southampton may be part of a time management plan aimed to help the side achieve maximum points over this tightly-scheduled period.
Per Klopp’s pre-match press conference, Jordan Henderson is “running outside,” but has not yet returned to full fitness after picking up a groin issue; there is no other new injury news.
Looking at Southampton’s 4-4-2 structure, Klopp notes that the side defend all “predictable” passes well, and press well in the midfield. As a result, his side must be “unpredictable,” “cheeky,” and “brave” to beat Hassenhüttl’s side. This sounds like a Thiago and Bobby Firmino job, but we could see Diogo Jota get some time, either in place of one of the standard front three or in addition, in the changed formation. Given the second half slump that’s happened lately, however, it might be good to have someone clinical off the bench.
Liverpool will aim to remain calm and take advantage of moments when their counter-press does not work out, all while being prepared to handle it when it does.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jurgen Klopp: “[Southampton are] a well-tuned machine, a pressing and counter-pressing machine, so that’s tricky. They are always very lively, it’s all set up in a specific way and everybody knows exactly what he has to do. I think it is a joy to watch Southampton games. Maybe they didn’t win often enough as well, that’s why they are in the position they are, but the football they play is at least always a very lively version of our wonderful game and I like that.”
Ralph Hasenhüttl: “They are still fighting for the Champions League – they have a small chance to go there still – so they have to win against us and we are playing to climb a few positions, so we must be as motivated as they are.”
Referee: Kevin Friend Assistants: Simon Beck, Adrian Holmes Fourth official: Andy Madley VAR: Andre Marriner Assistant VAR: Andy Halliday
Kickoff is set for 8:15PM BST/3:15PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, 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.