Liverpool were almost an afterthought heading into the new season with most of the focus on the Manchester rivals, as well as Chelsea and Arsenal. Yet the Reds head into their clash with Southampton atop the Premier League table.
The four-match unbeaten run to begin the league campaign includes a victory over defending champions Manchester United. Perhaps the most promising fact is that Liverpool have been able to start strong without Luis Suarez, who's finishing his suspension.
Southampton should pose an interesting challenge. The Saints sit in the middle of the table in the early going, but haven't allowed more than one goal in any match. The club's sturdy back line will test the Liverpool attack.
So let's take a glance at all the key information for the early Premier League contest, followed by a breakdown of the top storyline and a match prediction.
Where: Anfield in Liverpool, England
When: Saturday, Sept. 21 at 10 a.m. ET (3 p.m. BST)
Watch/Listen: NBC Sports Network and BBC Radio 5 Live
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Match Forecast (via Bloomberg Sports)
Top Storyline: Can Liverpool build off its promising start?
Brendan Rodgers deserves a lot of credit for his work with Liverpool. While fellow managers of marquee Premier League clubs are busy chasing high-priced stars, he's made a habit of adding impact players without the major price tags.
He continued that trend over the summer, adding players like Simon Mignolet and Iago Aspas. The result has been a well-balanced squad that doesn't have an overwhelming amount of star power, but is playing at a very high level.
The question mark now becomes whether or not the Reds have enough talent to challenge for the league title, something that seemed like an extreme long shot a month ago. Hopes are obviously on the rise at Anfield after coming out in good form early.
That said, it's still hard to imagine Liverpool winning the championship. Even with Suarez returning soon to provide a boost, keeping pace with United, City and Co. will be an uphill battle because the squad's overall talent level still falls a bit short of the other top contenders.
It's a deficit that's started to narrow and will continue to do so in the coming years as rising stars like Philippe Coutinho continue to develop. And Liverpool have shown they can keep pace with the top clubs for short stretches since the start of last term.
Doing it for an entire campaign is an entirely different story, though. They should feel much better about their chances of seriously challenging for a Champions League berth, but will need to do more to truly move into the title conversation.
Southampton's game plan is clear. The Saints want to win the possession battle, control the pace of the match and rely on quantity of chances instead of quality because they lack the top-end strikers necessary to have a dynamic attack.
It's a very simple approach, but it's working. Executing it on the road against an in-form Liverpool side will be the toughest test of the campaign so far, though. The Reds are going to put more pressure on the ball than West Brom or West Ham.
Although it will likely take some time for Liverpool to break down the Saints' defensive wall, which is led by Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren, they should be up to the task. Look for Daniel Sturridge to continue his early hot streak in a narrow victory.
Liverpool 2, Southampton 1
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