After yet another long winded international break, and thankfully, no major injury issues coming from it. Liverpool are due to play the somewhat struggling Southampton at Anfield in a three o’clock kick off this Saturday. With a fully fit side available to Jurgen Klopp for the first time in what seems like forever, how will the Reds fair as Virgil van Dijk and the rest of the Southampton visit Merseyside? Here’s our preview for match-day 12.
As I said, Liverpool will have a nigh-on fully fit side available when Southampton visit this Saturday. The only absentee will be Nathaniel Clyne who has undergone back surgery this week and will more than likely be out until the new year. Despite worries after returning from international duty early, Sadio Mane is set to be fully fit for this weekend’s fixture, as is Jordan Henderson who has spent the last few weeks recovering from injury problems of his own.
There is a return to fitness for Adam Lallana too, with the English midfielder available for selection for the first time this season.
Well, Virgil van Dijk will more than likely play. Plus, there are no real notable absences from the Southampton set up, with Mario Lemina being the only player unlikely to be able to play as the Saints travel north. Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis, Republic of Ireland’s Shane Long and Italy’s Manolo Gabbiadini are all available despite failing to qualify for next summer’s World Cup.
The biggest question is that whether or not Dejan Lovren will play. There are many scenarios that will see many fans omit the Croatian (who helped his national team qualify for next year’s World Cup). Fans will prefer to see Joe Gomez or Ragnar Klavan in the heart of defence with either the prior or Trent Alexander-Arnold at the right-back position. I also doubt that Adam Lallana will come straight back into the starting team, after a three month lay-off, I expect Jurgen Klopp to be a little sparing with playing Lallana over the next couple weeks. Also, this weekend’s fixture will signify the first time that Salah, Firmino, Coutinho and Mane are all available simultaneously. That’ll be… interesting.
Liverpool: Simon Mignolet, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah
Southampton: Fraser Forster, Cedric Soares, Virgil van Dijk, Wesley Hoedt, Ryan Bertrand, Oriol Romeu, Steven Davis, Dusan Tadic, Sofiane Boufal, Nathan Redmond, Manolo Gabbiadini
Liverpool have only won one of their last six games against Southampton in all competitions, with that win coming as a 6-1 thrashing in the League Cup away at St. Mary’s. The other five games have consisted of two draws and three wins for the Saints, including those from last season’s League Cup semi-finals. However, form dictates that Liverpool come into this game with much more momentum than their southern coast counterparts.
Liverpool: Philippe Coutinho
With Brazilian manager, Tite, stating in a press conference this week that he wants to play Coutinho centrally, but will only do so if Liverpool do, I can see Phil starting as part of the midfield trio when the Saints are in town on Saturday. The ability to create will be vital in the role and with the defence calibre of the Southampton set-up being well documented, we will need every ounce of his flair and creative genius in order to break down the Saints. Plus trying to get past this man:
Southampton: Virgil van Dijk
Could it be anyone else? Long-time Liverpool target, Virgil van Dijk will probably be starting against Liverpool on Saturday and the way that the big Dutchman plays could end up deciding the fate of the game. If he defends like we know he can, we’ll be in for a tough day at the office, with most of our play being intricate and skillful passes, he could end up cutting most of them out, but if he decides that he is actually part of our team, you know, like he wanted to be in the summer, then it could end up being a walk in the park for the Reds.
After an international break, I think that form goes out of the window. I think that teams have enough time to reset their mindsets and focus on training hard for their next game rather than dwelling on previous matches, therefore I think that the Southampton side that is fielded against Liverpool on Saturday will be more up for the game than we have seen all season, however, I do expect that Reds to have a bit too much quality for Mauricio Pelligrino and his Southampton side.