Liverpool are strong favourites to beat Southampton at home this weekend, but Saints supporters have reason to eye a potential upset.
The Reds made a welcome return to winning ways last Saturday, beating Arsenal 4-0 at Anfield after a superb all-around performance.
Next up for Liverpool is Saturday’s visit of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints, who currently sit 13th in the Premier League after 12 games.
The south coast team have been one of the more forgettable sides in the division of late, but they still possess quality on their day.
With the weekend action close, we spoke to Saints fan and writer Luke Osman (@lukeosman_) to hear all about Saints’ season, the title race and Saturday’s meeting.
How happy are you with Southampton’s start to the season?
There have been some frustrating performances and results, but it’s been a generally positive start.
The defeat to Norwich was incredibly poor, but I think most fans would have been more than happy with 13th place after 12 games.
We’re also eight points better off from the equivalent fixtures than we were at this stage last season, so there’s clearly been progress.
Are things threatening to go stale under Hasenhuttl? Or is that unfair?
I wouldn’t say things are going stale as such. Ralph Hasenhuttl has his flaws but you’ll rarely see anything less than full commitment from Saints.
He still makes some questionable decisions when it comes to personnel, and his in-game management can leave a lot to be desired at times, but it’s been a largely decent first quarter of the campaign.
Plenty of young players are looking good and we are definitely more solid than we were last term.
Who are Saints’ three most important players?
Oriol Romeu is crucial. He plays every game and it’s because he’s exceptionally consistent.
I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the Premier League and has certainly been one of our best this season.
His midfield partner, James Ward-Prowse, is also pivotal.
He rarely has a bad game and is so important for the team, particularly when it comes to winning the ball back and distributing it towards our onrushing full-backs.
He’s our captain and arguably our best player, so he’s got to be considered one of the most vital.
Another one I’d say is Che Adams.
You can make a case for Stuart Armstrong, Kyle Walker-Peters, Mohammed Salisu and others, but Southampton are decidedly worse going forward without Adams.
His hold-up play is brilliant, and when he’s in form, he’s hard to keep quiet. His passing is usually good and he occupies defenders.
I think he’s our best striker and he’s a real handful, even when he’s not scoring.
What are your realistic aspirations for the season now?
Prior to the season starting, survival was more of a hope than an expectation, given the loss of Danny Ings.
Now, following a decent start, it’s fair to say that a lot of our fans are looking up the table.
I can see us finishing anywhere between 13th and 17th, to be honest, but hopefully we can just stave off that threat of relegation quickly.
Switching our attention to Liverpool, how are you assessing their title chances?
It’s so, so close up there this season. The three best teams in the Premier League are quite obvious.
They’ve been absurdly – perhaps unsustainably – good at the back this season and have been flying even in the absence of Romelu Lukaku.
Salah aside, which Reds player would you most like to see in a Saints shirt?
I think I’ll go with Alisson. He’s had a couple of lapses recently but he’s a world-class goalkeeper and his distribution is incredible.
The confidence he instils throughout the team is so crucial, and with Saints’ weak spot perhaps being between the sticks, I’d have to go with the Brazilian.
Where do you see the key battles taking place on Saturday?
I’m quite looking forward to seeing how Tino Livramento deals with Mane. He has been incredible for us, and at 19, he’s only going to get better.
He will be up against a genuine, world-class forward player on Saturday, though, and he will probably be pegged back a little more than usual, so I’m intrigued to see how he copes.
I don’t think it will be an easy game for either of them.
Finally, what’s your prediction?
Even with the dismal loss to Norwich in mind, Saints have the capacity to cause a bit of an upset here.
I can’t see past a Liverpool win, though.
The second half against Arsenal was made to look so easy, but that only owed to the movement and speed at which Klopp demands his team plays.
I think we’ll struggle with that – I will go for 3-0 Liverpool, sadly.