Vital Preview: Liverpool vs. Southampton
Barclays Premier League
The Reds welcome Southampton to Anfield this Saturday afternoon and they will be eager to maintain an impressive start to the new season.
Despite being pegged back by Swansea City on Monday night, in a game they could have conceivably lost, the 2-2 draw showed resilience and keeps Brendan Rodgers' side unbeaten and at the top of the standings.
Southampton have had a solid, if unspectacular, start to their league campaign with one win, two draws and a defeat.
Surprisingly, given the £15million spent on Daniel Osvaldo and the form at international level of Rickie Lambert, goals have been the main issue with only two scored in the four games played and none from open play.
Kop boss Brendan Rodgers: "There's a lot more to come. We've made a good start. People will talk that it's early stages, as will I, but these are hurdles you have to get over.
"We're on 10 points already; at the end of last season we finished on 61 points and we talked about those extra 10 points that might have taken us into the Champions League. At this early stage we've got them.
"I believe the team has still got a lot of improvements to make, because of the nature of what I've seen in the games and the potential we have in the players."
Southampton chief Mauricio Pochettino: "It will be great to visit Anfield but it will be greater if we manage to get the three points and take a win from our visit there.
"I think my players are going to be one hundred per-cent focused on their task ahead, and I am completely sure that they're not going to be distracted from anything aside from the game."
Liverpool Team News:
Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho will be a big miss for the Merseysiders after being ruled out for six weeks with a shoulder injury. The 21-year-old has been a revelation since arriving in January and the task of replacing him could be key to Liverpool's success in this fixture. The most likely option is to move Jordan Henderson inside and start Raheem Sterling, a substitute against Swansea, on the wing. Alternatively, after scoring a hat-trick for the U21s in midweek, summer signing Luis Alberto could be handed a first league start in what would be a more like-for-like change. Vice-captain Daniel Agger is a doubt after an accident in the gym forced him to miss the club's last fixture. Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho will probably continue together at centre-back if the Dane is ruled out while Kolo Toure provides another option. In the continued absence of Glen Johnson, the experienced Ivorian, who returned from the bench on Monday night after a groin problem, may start at right-back instead of Andre Wisdom. Elsewhere, midfielder Joe Allen is doubtful with a hamstring strain and Uruguayan star Luis Suarez serves the last of his ten-match suspension for biting an opponent last season. Aly Cissokho and Sebastian Coates are definite absentees.
Mignolet, Toure, Skrtel, Sakho, Enrique, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Sterling, Moses, Sturridge
Player to watch: Jordan Henderson
Fresh from predicting a big impact by Victor Moses in my preview last week, I'm again going to ignore the obvious choices, such as Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge, and plump for Henderson to be a key figure this weekend. The England international has played every minute in the Premier League so far this season and injury to Coutinho could see the former Sunderland man moved into his favoured central midfield position. Full of endeavour and energy, 'Hendo' is currently brimming with confidence and finally proving why Kenny Dalglish sanctioned a near £20million outlay on him back in 2011. The 23-year-old is nearing 100 first-team appearances and has notched a not-to-shabby nine goals in that time.
Southampton Team News:
Although much has been made, not least within this preview, of Southampton's issues in front of goal, the blank against West Ham United last time out owed much to a brilliant performance by veteran Hammers keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. Previously this season the Saints did score five away to Championship outfit Barnsley in the League Cup so there are goals in the squad. The Lambert/Osvaldo partnership is yet to click however and the prospect of a trip to Anfield could see Pochettino leave one out and play an extra midfielder, possibly Uruguayan international Gaston Ramirez. On the injury front, left-backs Luke Shaw and Danny Fox are both doubts with 18-year-old Calum Chambers on standby.
Boruc, Clyne, Lovren, Fonte, Shaw, Lallana, Wanyama, Schneiderlin, Ramirez, Rodriguez, Lambert
Player to watch: Rickie Lambert
It's been an amazing few weeks for the 31-year-old who scored within three minutes of his England debut against Scotland last month. He followed it up with a brilliant performance against Moldova which featured another goal and a couple of eye-catching assists. International honours are the latest step up for a player who has featured in every professional division in the English game. Lambert, who was born in Liverpool and with the club briefly as a school boy, is a shining example of what can be achieved with hard work and dedication and will provide a stern physical test for the Reds rearguard this weekend.
Match Facts & Stats
• Liverpool and Southampton have met 81 times in their respective histories and the Reds hold the upper hand overall with 39 wins to 23 and 19 draws. Liverpool have scored a total of 124 goals compared to a tally of 92 for the Saints.
• Recent encounters have favoured Southampton however with the Saints winning four of the last six Barclays Premier League games between the two, although the Reds have won the last two at Anfield 1-0.
• Daniel Sturridge, with four, has as many Premier League goals to his name in four games this season as Southampton have managed collectively in their last nine matches in the competition.
• All five of Liverpool`s league goals this season have come before half-time.
• Despite the team being renowned for employing a passing style, Rickie Lambert has had eight headed shots in the Premier League this season; three more than Liverpool have in total (5).
Neil Swarbrick is the official appointed to oversee this contest. The Lancashire based whistle blower has taken charge of three games so far this season, showing 12 yellow cards and one red. The 47-year-old is in his third year as a member of the Select Group of Referees who oversee Premier League fixtures.
This is liable to be a tougher match than many Liverpool fans expect. Southampton have strengthened substantially over the summer, spending in excess of £35million, and they already possessed a team good enough to defeat us at St Mary's last season. The loss of Coutinho is a blow and Johnson's absence, especially as an attacking reinforcement, was also noticeable in Wales earlier this week. Liverpool will understandably start as firm favourites however and, with a much stronger squad now at his disposal, Rodgers will be expected to find the solutions which earn another three points.
Vital Liverpool predicts 2-1
Liverpool - Capital One Cup vs. Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday 25th September 2013, kick off 7.45pm BST.
Southampton - Capital One Cup vs. Bristol City at St Mary's on Tuesday 24th September 2013, kick off 7.45pm BST.
So that's what we think, how about you? Let us know your thoughts and predictions for the game below or vote in our poll to the right...
Click here to read our interview with a Southampton fan
Click here to read former Red Mark Lawrenson's prediction
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