NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 30, 2020: Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Gini to return & Thiago time? – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Southampton

With a cup game on the horizon and the luxury of a five-day break behind them, the Reds could keep changes to the minimum when they meet Southampton.

The Reds once again were a source of frustration as they ended 2020 with a second successive draw having been unable to find the breakthrough against Newcastle.

But a five-day break will have provided time to reset and refocus with the aim of starting 2021 as they mean to go on.

No new injury concerns emerged from the latest clash to provide Jurgen Klopp with a number of options, but he could resist making too many changes with the FA Cup in mind on Friday.

That clash offers the chance to rotate in greater numbers, but for now, the sole focus will be on rectifying the poor away form and returning all three points to Merseyside.

Here’s how Klopp could lineup his side at St Mary’s.


Team News

This time around it is relatively good news on the injury front as new no setbacks were dealt after the trip to Tyneside, with Klopp confident “we can go with the same squad to Southampton.”

It means Thiago remains in the mix after his late cameo, with the Reds to assess his chances of playing more minutes, or even starting, by how he reacts to his first outing in over two months.

The Reds will still be without Naby Keita, Joel Matip, Diogo Jota, Kostas Tsimikas, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk, however.

Gini Wijnaldum, on the other hand, is set for an immediate return after being rested from the XI after a busy season to date for the Dutchman.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Takumi Minamino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be hoping for more minutes and there remains another decision as to who starts alongside Fabinho out of Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips.


Liverpool’s XI vs. Southampton

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2020: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With this a must-win affair and with only two games on the horizon in the space of 13 days after the full-time whistle on the south coast, there is an opportunity to only make slight tweaks.

It could result in just three changes across two departments, with Rhys Williams drafted in in place of Phillips after struggling last time out – with the exception of aerial duels.

Liverpool’s style doesn’t fit his and it could see the 19-year-old take his place for just his second Premier League start, sitting alongside Fabinho to help stop an in-form Danny Ings and keep Southampton goalless for three successive games.

In midfield, both Thiago and Wijnaldum could sit alongside Jordan Henderson to create a midfield trident who can effectively rotate through every position.

It only would be the Spaniard’s second start for Liverpool since signing in the summer, an inclusion which would see both James Milner and Curtis Jones drop out of the side.

Ahead of them would be the usual front three, with Mo Salah aiming to equal Robbie Fowler’s record of scoring eight Premier League goals against the Saints – he is currently on seven – in a side that would look like this:

Alisson; Trent, R. Williams, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino

The boss may resist making more than two changes, however, and could keep Phillips in the side to help the 23-year-old find a level of consistency having yet to start back-to-back games.

It would leave Rhys Williams as back-up on the bench to ensure the back-five remain the same.

Wijnaldum’s return alongside the captain in the middle of the park could be coupled with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain‘s first start of the campaign.

His inclusion would be at the price of Jones who did look weary last time out, while it would also mean the game has come too soon for Thiago to start from the off.

And they would all sit behind Roberto Firmino, Salah and Sadio Mane – with the latter returning to his former club in the hopes of adding to his tally of one goal against them:

Alisson; Trent, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Mane, Firmino

It will certainly be interesting to see if Thiago is deemed capable of playing from the start, but if not he will certainly be called upon to make an impact and it’s an exciting prospect.

With a myriad of options, there are no excuses for Liverpool this time around and they will know they will need to be at their best to topple a Southampton side who have surprised many this season.

It is time to start 2021 as they mean to go on and with teams breathing down their necks, Liverpool must return to the winner’s board.