Our English football scribe gives his opinion on Wednesday's first leg League Cup tie between Southampton and Liverpool.
Both of these clubs earned less than stellar replays in the F.A Cup milieu last weekend. Southampton managed a 2-2 away point at Norwich while Liverpool finished with a frankly embarrassing 0-0 home draw with 2nd division Plymouth Argyle. Liverpool played the youngest side in their history, clearly delineating the fact that they will be taking this game far more seriously. Southampton, fairly safely enshrined within the middle of the Premier League log, will also field their strongest possible side in a quest for the most amazing commodity of all: silverware.
First Leg | Southampton vs Liverpool | Tuesday 11 January | St Mary’s Stadium
To Win (90 Mins)
Southampton 47/20 | Draw 23/10 | Liverpool 23/20
Southampton’s season has very much been a case of one step forward, two steps back. This was exemplified in their 2-2 draw with Norwich. They have had to deal with variable injury concerns as well as their perennial battle to keep their top players. This game really accentuates this fact, with Liverpool being the primary beneficiary of Southampton departures in the last few years. Virgil Van Djik is in huge demand while Jose Fonte has asked for a transfer request. At least Van Djik has the professionalism to continue playing unabated.
Southampton will be without Boufal: the Moroccan was set to miss out due to the Afcon but has subsequently picked up an injury said to keep him out for the next 3 to 4 weeks. Nathan Redmond will provide the type of pace that may trouble Milner and co. Charlie Austin misses out but Jay Rodriguez has proved an able replacement thus far. The combination of Romeu and Hojbjerg will be crucial in stopping those Liverpool midfielders from running from deeper positions. Ward-Prowse’s outstanding delivery could prove decisive giving the mammoth amount of scrutiny currently levelled at that Liverpool penalty box.
The good news for Liverpool is that Phillipe Coutinho has returned following injury. I don’t think that Klopp will be keen to rush him into first team action, especially considering the mammoth league fixture coming up against United. Additionally, Daniel Sturridge has also returned to light training. I suspect that Origi will lead the line here while Firmino and Lallana flank him.
The Joel Matip saga has rambled on, with Matip eventually deciding to prioritize club over country and eschew his national responsibility. Matip will likely still be unavailable and should return for the visit to United. Klavan and Lovren should be the central defensive pairing and will face a variety of tests, not least of which emitting from the cultured right boot of James Ward-Prowse. This will be a big test for Mignolet as Klopp is likely still wrestling with the notion of bringing in a new keeper.
Verdict: Double Chance - Southampton Win + Draw at 13/20
Despite the level of discontent that may be present in the Southampton camp, I think a semi-final atmosphere may elevate the performance of the home side. Southampton have been dangerous from set-pieces and their strengths dovetail nicely with Liverpool’s weaknesses.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.