Last season’s runners-up Liverpool welcome Southampton to Anfield this Sunday in a game that is likely to be a highly competitive encounter. The last time these two clubs met, the Reds were 3-0 victors with goals supplied by Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, and the departed Luis Suarez. However, The Saints were the first to beat them last campaign with Dejan Lovren (now a Liverpool player) scoring the only goal of the match at Anfield.
Liverpool come into the game in good form following a superb 4-0 thumping over Borussia Dortmund last weekend. Brendan Rogers will be hoping to push his side all the way to the Premier League title this season after coming so close last season, losing the league to Manchester City by two points.
The Reds will take a lot of positives from last season despite losing the league. Rogers will be hoping to come out on top this year having strengthened his squad with impressive signings after losing last season’s Player of the Year, Suarez to Barcelona. The Reds have added Javi Manquillo, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, while crippling their opposition by snatching Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Lovren, who were key to the Saints’ successful 8th place finish last season. Some would say that Liverpool have beaten Southampton before kick-off just by making those marquee signings.
Lovren is a particularly important addition. Often lost in the blur of bright, attacking football that led to 101 goals in 38 league games (second in the Premier League behind Manchester City’s 102) was the fact that Liverpool also gave up 50 goals. Lovren will be expected to step in and upgrade a defence in need of patching. While Liverpool likely won’t play as open and expansive as they did last year, tailoring to the talents of Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, the team isn’t going to start parking the bus this year, either. Adding Lovren to the back four should help solidify the defence.
While Lambert may not be guaranteed to start against his former side, Liverpool will be reliant on Sturridge to score goals in the absence of Suarez, and the England international has fulfilled the task excellently in the past. The striker has been outstanding for the Reds ever since he arrived at the club, scoring 31 goals in 43 league games. Sterling has been an integral part of Rodgers’ side and will be looking to cause Southampton all kinds of problems with his pacey runs. Lallana could miss the match after picking up a knee injury he suffered in training last month.
Ronald Koeman’s first test in the English Premier League is a difficult one against the Reds. The Dutchman’s managerial career has not quite matched the stardust of his playing days though he is widely tipped to be a success at Southampton. After a meteoric four years that has seen the Saints rise from League One to the cusp of Europe, they have lost all of their best talents in the current transfer window.
The aforementioned Lallana, Lovren and Lambert have joined Liverpool, while Luke Shaw has joined Manchester United, Calum Chambers has moved to Arsenal and midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has handed in a transfer request. Koeman has already made a few signings as the Saints look to rebuild after losing their core, signing Ryan Bertrand from Chelsea on a season long loan to replace Shaw and Serbian playmaker Dusan Tadic has been brought in by the club as a direct replacement for Lallana.
Like Lallana, Tadic isn’t the most rapid player in terms of blistering pace but is very similar to the former Saints captain through his versatility, ability to unlock doors with perfectly weighted passes and not holding onto possession for too long. He could prove to be a nuisance for Rogers’ side and he’ll need to be closely marked.
Koeman has also lured Italian goal machine Graziano Pelle away from Dutch giants Feyenoord, in order to fill the goalscoring void left by Lambert. Pelle scored 23 goals in 28 appearances last season, leaving his overall Feyenoord tally at 55 goals in 66 appearances. He will be the Saints’ biggest threat going forward and will look to upset Liverpool’s error-prone defence.
Liverpool were outstanding at home last season winning 16 matches, drawing once and losing just twice from 19 games. It will take a lot to beat the Reds on their turf this season. Despite Suarez moving onto greener pastures, Liverpool have enough firepower to annihilate Southampton.
Written by Chadley Nagel