Southampton host Liverpool as their first home game of the new Premier League season.
The Saints host the European champions on the back of a disastrous result away to Burnley on the opening weekend. Liverpool, on the other hand, are entering their fourth competitive game of the campaign after defeat in the Community Shield, an emphatic home win against Norwich City in their first Premier League fixture and the UEFA Super Cup success on penalties over Chelsea on Wednesday night.
Southampton will be looking to take advantage of their full week of training, whilst their opponents are struggling with some injuries to key players. Alisson and Naby Keita are set to miss the game through injury, and Adrian will face a last-minute fitness test for the Reds.
Ahead of the fixture with Liverpool, I spoke with Ste Hoare, editor of Read Liverpool, in order to gain an insight into the mood amongst the Liverpool fans heading into the fixture. Here’s what he had to say.
Liverpool had an exceptional season, both in Europe and the league. What are your expectations for 2019/20?
The expectations are to make a challenge for the title and go far in Europe again. We’re in a league with Man City, the best side this country has ever seen, in my opinion, so to expect to win the title would be absurd, but I’d expect that Liverpool are in the title race come late April.
As for Europe, we’ve shown that we’re a great team in the Champions League. The Reds have never failed to emerge from a group under Jurgen Klopp, and they’ve never lost a two-legged tie under the German either, so I’d expect us to at least get to the quarter-finals of that competition again.
Speaking of Europe, if any, what impact do you think Wednesday’s night Super Cup win will have on the game?
I think it’ll be huge; having to play extra-time time in the heat of Istanbul this early in the season will have taken a lot out of the players. Some of our best players haven’t even had a full pre-season yet, so to play such an intense game will certainly have affected fitness levels.
I think that game, which finished roughly 64 hours or so before kick-off at St Mary’s, will be a major factor. Liverpool will have to make changes to the starting line-up, without a doubt.
Southampton provided a tough test for Liverpool the last time the two sides faced-off at St Mary’s. Are you expecting another testing challenge?
Yes, I am. I think everyone would agree that if both teams play to their absolute best, then Liverpool will win. However, with tired legs and with Southampton playing at home for the first time this season, coming off a terrible loss, I think Saints will provide a very stern test.
Tactically speaking, have you seen anything different from Liverpool this season or is it business as usual?
We have been playing with a high defensive line recently, which looks a bit different, but nothing too much. In truth, in the first three games of this campaign, we’ve not looked as sharp at the back as we did last season. Whether that’s due to tactics of rustiness, I’m not so sure.
And finally, which Southampton player are you expecting to cause the most problems for Liverpool?
Like I mentioned earlier, Liverpool have been playing a high line and leaving space in behind. If there’s pressure on the ball, and if the line stays disciplined, then that will work fine. However, if attackers can time their runs, they might be able to break the offside trap. I think Che Adams, who impressed me at Birmingham, certainly has capabilities of making such runs, so he’s the dangerman for me.
I would like to personally thank Ste for taking the time to answer my questions ahead of the match. You can follow him on Twitter @stehoare.