16:30 GMT, Sunday 11th February, St Mary’s (Southampton, England), Sky Sports
Last weekend’s win over the Baggies ensured the Saints climbed out of the relegation places. However, they’re still to close for comfort after a disastrous two months which returned only seven points from 12 matches.
With fans still less than impressed by the direction of the club under Mauricio Pellegrino this season, a win over the club who took their captain last month will go some way to appeasing them and their relegation worries.
At the opposite end of the table, Liverpool’s charge has recently been blunted by two defeats and a draw from their previous four games.
A fixture against a side struggling to survive should be exactly the tonic needed to remedy this. However, Liverpool have won only two of their last eight encounters with the Saints and have recently lost to two other relegation candidates.
Last Time Out
West Brom 2-3 Southampton (Premier League)
On the day that a tribute was paid to former Baggie Cyrille Regis, this match was fittingly an attack-heavy classic in which the Saints triumphed over Regis’ former club.
The game started as it meant to go on with Ahmed Hegazi’s header putting the home side ahead. However, the Saints maintained their nerve and created the majority of chances.
Pellegrino had handed a first start to Guido Carrillo in attack but while the forward didn’t get his name on the score-sheet, he was lively and determined, even if lacking effectiveness.
There was a midfield master-class from Mario Lemina who capped another impressive game for the Saints with a stunning strike that levelled the scores in the 40th-minute.
It was James Ward-Prowse who stole the headlines with an assist just before the interval and a third Southampton goal through a free-kick at the start of the second half.
This proved enough for all three points against the Baggies despite a late rally and a consolation strike which set up an exciting finale to the game.
Liverpool 2-2 Tottenham (Premier League)
An adrenalin-packed game of two halves may be a cliché but it proved to be a controversial affair on Merseyside last weekend.
Liverpool’s blisteringly fast start to the game saw them rewarded through Mohamed Salah’s 3rd-minute strike but they were unable to widen their advantage.
Liverpool’s relentless pressing provided the bedrock of their domination, yet they were unable to translate it into too many clear-cut opportunities. At the final whistle they had registered only three of their nine shots on target, two of which were goals by Salah.
The final ten minutes provided the majority of the talking points. After Tottenham had grown into the match, Jurgen Klopp attempted to stem the flow of white shirts by switching to a back-three only for a parried save to be exquisitely slammed into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Loris Karius then conceded and saved a dubious penalty from Harry Kane before Salah restored Liverpool’s lead just inside injury time.
Tottenham continued to pour forward and won a second penalty when Erik Lamela drew a foul in the dying seconds which Kane dispatched with almost the last kick of the game to end the game even.
Only a hamstring injury to Charlie Austin prevents Pellegrino having a full deck to choose from for this match.
This is likely to result in an unchanged side for the Saints which appears to be Pellegrino’s favoured team from recent weeks.
Ragnar Klavan, Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana are all suffering muscular injuries, although Lallana was infamously involved in the under-23’s match on Monday night as he steps up his recovery.
Joe Gomez will require a late fitness test which could pave the way for Trent Alexander-Arnold to start at right-back again.
Klopp is also likely to switch his midfield around although his tried and trusted front-line should remain unchanged.
Key Battle: Guido Carrillo (Southampton) vs Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Although the Saints scored three goals last weekend, their new record signing was not directly involved in any of them.
Part of this can be placed on the lack of support that he’s provided as he’s often left an isolated figure at the top of the pitch.
The main strength he brings to the side is an unyielding work-rate and a strong aerial presence which the team use to disrupt the opposition’s back line.
With Liverpool expected to retain the majority of possession this weekend, Carrillo can provide a good outlet who will ably compete for balls played from the wings by the wide players.
The ex-Southampton skipper will be the player looking to thwart his old club after his record-breaking move north last month.
Having had a mixed start with his new club, van Dijk will be eager to quieten the critics and any home fans who are disappointed in the way his move transpired.
While the lack of a good defensive partner appears to be lessening his impact on Merseyside, Klopp will be hoping for a performance closer to his debut against Everton than the display last weekend which saw him conceding a clumsy penalty after an impressive game in which he dominated everything aerially.
The rise and rise of JWP
It’s been a season lacking in success stories for the Saints so far. However, James Ward-Prowse is slowly beginning to fill that void.
With three goals and two assists from his last four league games, Ward-Prowse is becoming more than simply a dead-ball specialist.
As a product of the Saints youth academy, he has often provided reliably consist performances for the team, albeit, without the end product that has recently been added to his game.
Having made his International debut with the senior England team last year, he could become a surprise contender for a flight to Russia this summer if he’s able to build further on the progress he’s made up to this point.
Much was written at the beginning of this season regarding Tottenham’s reliance on limited attacking resources, while Arsenal too had looked short of depth before January.
The sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, and more pointedly, the lack of bringing a replacement to the club have left Liverpool in a similar situation.
This is also something that’s been compounded by the Reds allowing Daniel Sturridge leaving the club on loan.
While there are players such as Dominic Solanke and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who can fill these attacking positions, Liverpool now lack the strength in depth that most of their rivals have.
With the season running into its busiest and most critical phase, this is a risky path that the club have taken.
Prediction: Southampton 2-2 Liverpool
With little to lose and a motivation to beat the side who their former captain chose over them, Southampton are likely to provide a sterner test than many expect.
Liverpool had a fallibility last season in playing away to teams struggling in the league and unless they approach this game without any thoughts on their upcoming fixtures, they could see themselves drop two more points in the race for a top-four finish.