Liverpool welcome a much-improved Southampton to Anfield on Saturday, as their bid to seal the earliest Premier League title win continues.
Liverpool vs. Southampton
Saturday, February 1, 2020 – 3pm (GMT)
Premier League (25)
Referee: Kevin Friend
The Reds begin February with a return to Anfield, and the first of four league games this month against the only one of those sides not embroiled in a relegation battle.
Southampton have improved significantly since it appeared Ralph Hasenhuttl’s time was up at the end of November, and sit ninth in the table heading into the weekend after recent victories over the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester.
Hasenhuttl has been vocal in his admiration of Liverpool in the buildup, saying “everything is possible” for Jurgen Klopp‘s side, but has called on his squad to defy expectations of defeat.
The last time the two sides met came towards the beginning of the campaign, and much has changed for both in the following months.
Liverpool will be aiming to go—at least briefly—22 points clear at the top of the table with a win, while the Saints could join the Europa League battle if they become the first to beat the Reds in the league this season.
Anfield will be awaiting a 24th victory out of 25, to heap further misery on Man City ahead of their visit to Spurs on Sunday.
Klopp revealed in his pre-match press conference that Adam Lallana is the only stricken player to return to availability for this meeting with his old club.
James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and another ex-Saint, Sadio Mane, will all be back after the winter break, with their comebacks pencilled in for the trip to Norwich.
Divock Origi has recovered from cramp and should be available, which gives Klopp a number of options to consider in attack.
Takumi Minamino could be given his first Premier League start, while both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones may be deployed out wide, particularly if Fabinho is recalled to midfield.
There are unlikely to be many changes for the Reds, with only one or two to be expected when the teamsheet is released at 2pm on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Southampton will be without influential midfielder Stuart Armstrong, while Hasenhuttl has ruled out a debut for loan signing Kyle Walker-Peters.
Cedric Soares joined Arsenal on loan on Friday morning, which leaves the prospect of Yan Valery making an immediate return at right-back, James Ward-Prowse covering or the Saints switching to a back three.
Armstrong is the only major absentee, with Hasenhuttl welcoming back both Valery and Jannik Vestergaard to a near fully fit squad.
Possible Southampton XI: McCarthy; Ward-Prowse, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand; Redmond, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Djenepo; Ings, Long
Last 5 at Home to Southampton (All Competitions)
Won 3-0 – September 2018 (Hoedt OG, Matip, Salah)
Won 3-0 – November 2017 (Salah x2, Coutinho)
Drew 0-0 – May 2017
Lost 1-0 – January 2017 (Long)
Drew 1-1 – October 2015 (Benteke; Mane)
Did You Know?
Danny Ings‘ next goal will see him find the back of the net for Southampton as many times as he played for Liverpool, with the Saints striker currently on 24.
In his 25 outings for the Reds he struck just four times, including in Brendan Rodgers’ final game in charge, with the difference in his output since leaving the sign of a decision well made.
The 27-year-old’s goal in the 2-1 defeat at St Mary’s in August was his first in three meetings with Liverpool, in which he has lost every time, including two as a Burnley player.
He has scored 14 times in the Premier League this season, making him the third-highest goalscorer behind only Sergio Aguero (16) and Jamie Vardy (17), and two ahead of Mohamed Salah (12).
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 2-0 vs. West Ham
Drew 2-2 vs. Shrewsbury
Won 2-1 vs. Wolves
Won 2-0 vs. Man United
Won 1-0 vs. Tottenham
Southampton – Last five results (all competitions)
Drew 1-1 vs. Tottenham
Won 2-0 vs. Crystal Palace
Lost 3-2 vs. Wolves
Won 2-1 vs. Leicester
Won 2-0 vs. Huddersfield
Speaking at Melwood on Friday, Klopp hailed the work of Hasenhuttl, and described Southampton as a “pressing machine”:
“This turnaround is exceptional, it really is exceptional.
“I think I won the Manager of the Month the last two months or so, but from my point of view it was Ralph, 100 percent.
“Because from what they did, from a no- or low-confidence level, to come to this confidence level by organising the team—not changing the way you want to play, no pushing it through.
“It was always clear how Ralph wants to play, now implementing that is incredible, I’ve not often seen something like that.
“Southampton now looks like a pressing machine.
“Jumping at everything, pressing on the highest level, counter-pressing on the highest level, but playing football as well.”
TV & Liveblog Info
Liverpool vs. Southampton will not be broadcast live on UK TV, due to it being a 3pm kickoff.
However, This Is Anfield’s Chris Williams will be providing his usual blend of updates, facts and biased commentary on our matchday liveblog.