Southampton Mauricio Pellegrino during the pre-season friendly match at St Mary's, Southampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday August 2, 2017. See PA story SOCCER Southampton. Photo credit should read: Simon Galloway/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

Southampton without key midfielder for trip to Liverpool

Mauricio Pellegrino has vowed to create problems for Liverpool when he visits his former club for the first time as Southampton manager.

Pellegrino, the former Argentina international, spent time at Anfield in both playing and coaching capacities alongside Rafael Benitez, before going it alone as a manager in his own right.

The 46-year-old has managed in both his homeland and LaLiga – with Valencia and then Alaves – before replacing Claude Puel at St Mary’s in the summer.

It has not been an easy transition to life in the Premier League for Pellegrino – with his side struggling for both points and goals – and he will head to Anfield on Saturday in need of a morale-boosting result.

“It will be a nice experience for me,” Pellegrino said as he looked ahead to his Merseyside return.

“I had a really happy time in my career as a player and as a coach at Liverpool.

“But on Saturday it is a nice opportunity to represent Southampton, and we will try to play well, play a good game and create problems for Liverpool.”

NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 28, 2008: Liverpool's goalkeeping coach Xavi Valero and first team coach Mauricio Pellegrino during the Premiership match against Newcastle United at St James' Park. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Pellegrino will be without Mario Lemina this weekend. The former Juventus midfielder suffered an ankle injury in training, and, while he continues to make a quicker than anticipated recovery, the trip to Merseyside will come too soon.

One Southampton player Pellegrino could also have been without is Virgil van Dijk after the wantaway defender handed in a transfer request last summer in a bid to push through a move to Liverpool.

But Saints dug in their heels, and, as the defender prepares to line up against Jurgen Klopp‘s side, Pellegrino insists his centre-half is fully focused on the job in hand.

“Virgil is training well and thinking about our club,” Pellegrino added. “We cannot control the market and all the whispers.

“We have a lot of players who are important and most of the clubs in the world want a lot of our players. Virgil is one of those, but we have to be focused on our job.”

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