Emre Can vs. Oriol Romeu battle key for Liverpool to beat Southampton

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Liverpool host Southampton in their penultimate home game of 2016/17; here’s everything you need to know about the Saints.

Southampton

Premier League form: D – W – W – L – L – D

League position: Ninth

Last win: 1-0 at West Brom, April 8

Away: Won five, drawn three, lost nine. Have won and lost three each of the last six on the road, including defeats at Spurs and Chelsea of late.

 

Approach

Claude Puel has changed formation a few times across the season, but the overall style and manner of play has largely remained the same.

Initially, Saints fielded a diamond midfield and two up top, but the flexibility of the forwards meant moving to 4-3-3 was an easy option, particularly with Nathan Redmond pushing wide from centre.

More recently, a true double pivot in midfield has meant a 4-2-3-1 setup.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 11, 2017: Southampton's Nathan Redmond in action against Liverpool during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

They play neat football, have good technical midfielders and quickly play the ball forward into the channels, but they can also be very direct and aggressive once in the final third. They play the most crosses per game in the top flight, 25 on average.

Against Liverpool, though, it has been a different matter at times.

Saints have sat deep, in one collective block, and asked the Reds to break them down. That’s at home; at Anfield it’s unlikely to be any other way.

[Stats via WhoScored]

 

Three keys to win

Shut down Romeu. Key to both destroying and initiating attacks for Southampton is Oriol Romeu.

The Spanish midfielder has been excellent this term, shielding the back four in his aggressive style but also being proactive in threading balls between the lines, switching play and driving the team upfield.

Defensively, he posts stats which are just a shade under N’Golo Kante level.

Self-confidence. It’s a funny thing, but it still feels somewhat as though neither fans nor players completely believe that Liverpool are third on merit.

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 14, 2016: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates the 3-1 victory over Middlesbrough during the FA Premier League match at the Riverside Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There are three matches left to play and only Tottenham and Chelsea have won more games than the Reds this season. It doesn’t matter how those wins come about; even an uncertain performance or narrow win is perfectly acceptable at critical times, and that’s where the team is right now.

A little more belief that this is a true position and perhaps those last few minutes won’t be quite as nail-biting, the expectation of losing out won’t be quite as prevalent.

A killer second. Easy to say, perhaps, but Liverpool need to rediscover how to put the ball in the net a second time.

The last three matches have yielded a single goal each time for the Jurgen Klopp‘s side, and while somewhat improved defensive resilience is a good thing, as the Palace game showed it isn’t always enough.

 

Key men

Emre Can is a man who has played himself into form again and his stunning Watford winner should only see his confidence surge. At the most important moments, it can be the player who has briefly hit top gear who can repeatedly make the difference, and that’s what the Reds need.

To help overrun Romeu, to add a goal threat in the final third and to show his creative qualities when the Saints inevitably sit deep, Can can help Liverpool find a way.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 20, 2016: Liverpool's Emre Can in action against Southampton's Oriol Romeu during the FA Premier League match at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Southampton will look to Fraser Forster in goal to produce a big game, especially given their defensive pairing in the second half of the season, but it’s still Romeu who will be most critical.

 

Team news

Virgil van Dijk and Charlie Austin are long-term absentees.

Possible XI: Fraser Forster, Cedric Soares, Jack Stephens, Maya Yoshida, Ryan Bertrand, Oriol Romeu, Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse, Dusan Tadic, Nathan Redmond, Manolo Gabbiadini.

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