Premier League Preview: How Liverpool Will Line Up Against Southampton
It promises to be a tough fixture for the Reds, who have lost to the Saints twice in two games since Mauricio Pochettino was appointed as manager last year.
Southampton’s brand of relentless, physical and energetic football is complemented by a quick, strong and young midfield core, and are perfectly equipped to exploit Liverpool’s shaky defence.
But with their four-goal haul against the Swans last week, Brendan Rodgers’ side have overtaken Manchester City as the league’s highest-scoring team so far this season.
Here is our starting XI for Liverpool at St. Mary’s Stadium this Saturday. Let us know your picks in the comments below.
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
Right-Back: Jon Flanagan
Glen Johnson’s return to the first team spelled the end of a decent run from left-back Aly Cissokho, not Jon Flanagan.
Flanagan is still lacking in his technical attributes and attacking contributions, but his energy, commitment, work rate and defensive positioning will be important to keep Southampton’s rampaging left-back Luke Shaw at bay.
Left-Back: Glen Johnson
After a solid return to first-team football against Swansea, Glen Johnson will likely reprise his starting left-back role on Saturday.
He offers much more going forward than Cissokho and may be key to breaking down a disciplined and resolute Saints rearguard, but he will also have to be on red alert defensively.
Centre-Back: Martin Skrtel
A few months of grappling and shoving inside the box finally culminated in a penalty awarded against Martin Skrtel last Sunday.
Far from the reliable defender he appeared to be when he roared back to form earlier in the season, Skrtel has been unconvincing and error-prone in recent weeks.
The temptation is there to reinstate Kolo Toure’s reliable partnership with Daniel Agger at the start of the season, but Brendan Rodgers is likely to stick with Skrtel for the time being.
Centre-Back: Daniel Agger
An early substitution for Kolo Toure last Sunday didn’t bode well for Daniel Agger, who the Express claim is losing the faith of Brendan Rodgers for his apparent inability to deal with physical centre-forwards.
Given Toure’s troubles and significant howlers on the left side of defence recently, however, Agger will be starting against Southampton, as confirmed by Rodgers via the Guardian this Friday. Agger's much-touted defensive intelligence and anticipation will be needed in a tough match against the Saints.
With Mamadou Sakho’s return on the horizon, though, Agger will need to put in a big performance to convince Rodgers that he still has a future leading the Reds from the back.
Holding Midfielder: Steven Gerrard
Despite Steven Gerrard’s lack of positional discipline and declining physical attributes, he still possesses a game-changing pass, set piece and goals in him, and retains a huge influence in the Anfield dressing room.
Since moving into a deeper holding midfield position, Gerrard has largely impressed, but he is still prone to the odd foray forward, especially when the team are in search of a goal, leaving the back line exposed.
A change for Rodgers to consider would be to throw on an additional central midfield option in place of an attacker to push Gerrard forward into a more direct attacking role.
Joe Allen, whose second-half cameo against Swansea last Sunday attracted universal praise, would be the ideal replacement.
Central Midfielder: Jordan Henderson
Jordan Henderson is thriving as Liverpool’s main box-to-box midfield engine these days.
His two goals against Swansea last week showed his ever-developing finishing skills, while he no longer seems embarrassed by the spotlight when he has to take the reins and influence proceedings from the midfield.
Another big performance against compatriot and fellow World Cup-contender Adam Lallana could well see the Reds No. 14 on the plane to Brazil this summer.
Attacking Midfielder: Philippe Coutinho
Philippe Coutinho has bulked up, improved his stamina and added steel to his game. As a result, he has been more comfortable playing in a deeper attacking midfield role, exerting pressure on opponents and helping the transition from defence to attack.
His inconsistency and poor finishing in front of goal are still concerns, but he still has a potential game-changing piece of skill or through ball in his locker.
Right Forward: Raheem Sterling
Five goals and five assists in 22 Premier League games: Safe to say that Raheem Sterling is having an impressive season with Liverpool so far.
His all-round game has developed so well that he has now become a strong contender to make the England squad for the World Cup this summer.
His contributions in both attack and defence will be needed against Southampton’s resolute defensive record and quick playing style.
Left Forward: Luis Suarez
Brendan Rodgers has favored rotating his three forwards across the frontline of late, but starting on the left side on Saturday should be Luis Suarez.
Not only does he have the ability to cut inside to devastating effect, but he also links up well with Daniel Sturridge as more of a support act these days. His off-the-ball movement, pressing and unpredictability will be a handful for the Southampton defence.
Liverpool fans will be hoping that he gets back into goal-scoring form as well.
Striker: Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge is in red-hot form: He’s scored in each of his last eight league appearances (hitting 10 goals in that run), and he is running close to Suarez in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot.
He starts up top for us, leading a potent and very prolific frontline. Long may the scoring run continue.