Southampton – Liverpool (Premier League)
Brendan Rodgers’ side travels south to face Southampton hoping to keep up the pressure on the top three pack. But Mauricio Pocchetino has been successful going against the Reds and will be expecting to add another notch to the Saints’ belt. Brace yourselves, Saturday we’ll be in for a tactical treat. Enjoy.
On Thursday Luke Shaw got his first call for England, a moment the 18 year old talent is sure to treasure, especially now the World Cup in coming right up. Roy Hodgson’s selection for the friendly match against Denmark includes several “Southampton boys” – Shaw, Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert. Could the Southampton Academy and Mauricio Pocchetino’s work with the Saints first team receive a bigger recognition? The Argentinian built a relentless, physical and energetic squad that has no shortage of talent, well suited to take advantage of Liverpool’s unsteady rearguard.
The Saints sit 9th with 39 points, 8 clear of West Ham. They are the last in the top-half of the Premier League table. One week ago they suffered a surprising defeat to the Hammers (3-1), that put an end to 6 straight League games unbeaten. This season they have held their one pretty well at St. Mary Stadium, making like difficult for visitors.
The injury list is virtually clear. Jos Hooiveld, Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren are doubtful.
Probable line-up: Boruc – Clyne, Lovren, Fonte, Shaw – Schneiderlin, Wanyama – Lallana, Davis, Rodriguez – Lambert.
Liverpool‘s attacking drive has conquered them supporters all over them world. The side’s motto this season might well be “We concede all you want as long as we score one over”. Moving forward Suárez and play-mates are an exciting bunch to follow. But a shaky defense has cost them some points already and it’s hard to imagine a squad contending to the Premier League title with such a vulnerability. Last Sunday’s home tie against Swansea was a showcase of what the Reds are in the pitch. The 4-3 score sheet made them overthrown Manchester City as the best attack of the Premier League with 70 goals. The previous round almost the same thing happened, this time at Craven Cottager (2-3), the back-block nearly compromising the attacking efforts. Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho and Glen Johnson all sustained long-term injuries forcing Rodgers to change the defensive line-up constantly but does that fact alone explain the 35 goals conceded?
Glen Johnson had a solid appearance against Swansea while returning from injury and should maintain the left-back position at the expense of Aly Cissokho. The England International just has more to give in the offensive end and Liverpool can use him to rattle the disciplined Saints back-block. Jordan Henderson put up quite a performance against the Swans, scoring twice and establishing himself as Liverpool’s box-to-box men in the middle that is not afraid of taking initiative. He also knows Hodgson is watching and has a few difficult decisions to make in the next weeks. Raheem Sterling has matured so impressively this season under Brendan Rodgers guidance it came as no surprise the recall for England. He is now a consensual contender to a spot in the national first team.
José Enrique and Sebastién Coates continue their recovery from injury. Lucas Leiva and Sakho have resumed training with the team but are probably not ready to start just yet.
Probable line-up: Mignolet – Flanagan, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson – Coutinho, Gerrard, Henderson – Suárez, Sturridge, Sterling.
Liverpool have fallen twice to the Saints since Mauricio Pocchetino arrived at St. Mary last year. In September Southampton visited Anfield and brought back the three points, Dejan Lovren scored the winner. It was the Reds only loss in front of their home crowd in the division this season.