06 May 2017

Liverpool v Southampton 05.07.17

8:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
0-1 Southampton (h; League Cup) 01.25.17
0-1 Southampton (a; League Cup) 01.11.17
0-0 (a) 11.19.16
2-3 Southampton (a) 03.20.16

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Watford (a); 1-2 Palace (h); 1-0 West Brom (a)
Southampton: 0-0 Hull (h); 2-4 Chelsea (a); 0-3 City (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané 13; Firmino 11; Coutinho 10; Lallana, Milner 7; Origi 6; Can, Wijnaldum 5; Lovren, Sturridge 2; Henderson, Matip 1
Southampton: Austin, Redmond 6; Gabbiadini, Rodriguez, Ward-Prowse 4; Long, Tadic 3; Bertrand 2; Boufal, Clasie, Romeu, Yoshida, van Dijk 1

Referee: Bobby Madley (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Matip Lovren Milner
Wijnaldum Lucas Can
Lallana Firmino Coutinho

Adam Lallana in the front three usually hasn't worked this season. It's rarely looked like the few times that front three dominated last season, and it certainly hasn't been anywhere near as good as when Lallana plays in midfield. But at least Coutinho should also be back, which would help. And, more importantly (and sadly), Divock Origi has been officially bad lately.

It's not entirely Origi's fault. He's rarely had a consistent run this season, and his entrance into the XI came at the same time Liverpool lost crucial players in Mané, Lallana, and Henderson. But he also hasn't scored since Bournemouth, his first start in this five-game run. He's put just four shots on-target in those five starts and created just five chances. He's not done enough, either individually or to bolster the rest of the attack.

And Roberto Firmino is most assuredly better in a central role.

Given form, I'd rather see Origi make way than Lucas as well, with the Wijnaldum-Lucas-Can midfield surprisingly decent of late. Especially with Can able to make attacking runs like that which led to the winner at Watford, rather than Can attempting to sit deeper and usually pulled from side to side.

I'd also be more than happy to see Sturridge up front with Firmino and Coutinho – I want to believe, etc. – but I'm not holding my breath on that front.

If Coutinho's not ready, it'll probably have to be Origi. And I'd hope it'd be with him on the left with Firmino central. Or, Lallana left and Firmino right if Klopp feels as if Origi has to play centrally. Just not Firmino on the left. That was very, very not good at Watford last week. But the key word is "hope." A front six of Wijnaldum, Lucas, Can; Lallana, Origi, Firmino – just as after Coutinho's injury last week – wouldn't surprise at all. Even if it would disappoint.

Either way, Liverpool need more firepower up front. Liverpool need to create more and better chances, Liverpool need to take more and better shots. They've not been able to do so in far too long, basically since Mané's injury. They've still done alright during this stretch, grinding out impressive wins at Stoke, West Brom, and Watford, even if also throwing away two points against Bournemouth and living through that Crystal Palace debacle. But Liverpool especially need more firepower against this Southampton side.

The Liverpool v Southampton narrative remains overarching and overwhelming. Yes, Liverpool have signed five Southampton players in the last couple of seasons, including three likely to start tomorrow. Yes, Liverpool are winless in three matches against Southampton this season, including two 0-1 losses in the League Cup semifinal, winless in the last three league matches against Southampton, and winless in the last four in all competitions. Liverpool haven't scored, Liverpool haven't done enough to score, in any of this season's meetings.

Yes, this has not been a fun fixture recently.

Southampton are also kind of, sort of ready for the season to end. Comfortably in the mid-table pack, they've failed to win their last three matches, including drubbings against both City and Chelsea and an insipid 0-0 against Hull. They've five fixtures left compared to Liverpool's three, thanks to rescheduling, featuring games against Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United. Southampton will have a lot to say about who's finishing fourth, and I'm sure they know it.

Last season, Southampton finished with 63 points, three points and two places ahead of Liverpool. This season they'll be lucky to get 50.

But Southampton also keep rolling on, replacing both players and manager without too much change in tactics or fortune. Southampton are still pretty Southampton, as this season's three meetings have demonstrated. Hard-working. Diligent. Capable. Etc. They can be quite defensively secure, even if matches against both City and Chelsea suggest otherwise; it's hard to stay as good defensively as you've been when Virgil van Dijk's injured and Fonte's been sold.

And Southampton remain incredibly goal-shy, even more so than last season. Austin and Rodriguez have been injured for long stretches, although Gabbiadini has been a helpful January acquisition. Only six sides have scored fewer goals this season: Stoke, Watford, Hull, Burnley, Boro, and Sunderland. Only three sides have had fewer clear-cut chances: Burnley, Hull, and Sunderland. I doubt I need remind how Liverpool defended against most of those sides.

Tomorrow's XI will probably be Forster; Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Davis; Tadic, Gabbiadini, Redmond. And except for Gabbiadini, that's the same side which Liverpool lost to at Anfield back in January's second-leg semifinal. The aforementioned van Dijk and Austin are absent, while Boufal is doubtful. Redmond is a true threat, the type of player who'll give either of Liverpool's full-backs multiple problems, as he did in both League Cup matches. Tadic and Ward-Prowse can do set plays and crosses, and Gabbiadini's a handful, but otherwise, it's about what Liverpool can do to break down and break through a deep and determined defensive midfield and a well-positioned back four. As per usual.

Last week's win over Watford has given Liverpool a modicum of breathing room. City are back in front of Liverpool in third, level on points and matches, but well ahead on goal difference after absolutely housing Palace, while United remain four points back with a game in hand. It's not much of a modicum; Liverpool still need to travel to West Ham, a side they haven't beaten away from home since 2013-14 and a side they haven't beaten anywhere in the last five meeting, then host Boro, likely to be relegated by that point but Liverpool against relegation zone sides, etc.

Liverpool still need to treat the next game as if it's the last. By any means necessary.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

remember the last game in the previous season?
you might want to change that finish, mate.