An international break is every football fan’s least favourite time of year and after being treated to two 0-0 draws, Premier League action will be welcomed back with open arms. Liverpool will welcome Southampton to Anfield as they take on the team that has turned into something of a feeder club for the Reds in recent years. Jurgen Klopp is one of the most major doubts for the encounter. The boss was taken to hospital on Wednesday as a precautionary measure after falling ill. Although he has since left, no-one can say for certain if he will be on the side-lines tomorrow.
Liverpool Team News
Recently, Simon Mignolet has been performing just about well enough to hold onto his starting spot. Although the goalkeeping position is seemingly always in rotation, Anfield has been turned into a defensive fortress this year. The Belgian will be hoping for more of the same and will try to replicate the clean sheet he secured in this fixture last season. In front of him, Dejan Lovren should be ready to start a league match for the first time since the infamous Tottenham game. Lovren played 180 minutes for his country last week, so he should be fully over the injury that has kept him out of action for the previous three fixtures. Joel Matip, Alberto Moreno and, fresh off his first two England appearances, Joe Gomez will round out the back line.
Jordan Henderson pulled out of the England squad with a thigh injury, which leaves him as a considerable doubt for tomorrow. The extra rest may have done him some good, but it’s too soon to say for certain if he’ll be ready. James Milner will be ready and waiting to take his place, if necessary. Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can are usual members of the midfield and this weekend should be no different. Adam Lallana has made considerable progress back toward full fitness, and everyone is optimistic that he will find himself on the bench. He’ll be hopeful to get just a few minutes at least, against his former club.
Another former Southampton man who is suffering with an injury concern is Sadio Mane. The Senagalese forward returned home early from international duty as he felt some remnants from the hamstring injury he’s only just gotten over. Liverpool are said to be leaving any decision making on Mane until the last minute. Philippe Coutinho has been missing from the last three Liverpool games, but his return to action for Brazil in the friendly against England means that he should be ready to start tomorrow. This comes at a time when the rumours regarding his move to Barcelona have reignited, ahead of the January transfer window. His international teammate, Roberto Firmino will start up front, with Mohamed Salah on the right wing. The Egyptian has been Liverpool’s standout performer so far this season and already has seven league goals to his name.
Predicted Line Up: Mignolet; Moreno, Lovren, Matip, Gomez; Can, Milner, Wijnaldum; Coutinho, Firmino, Salah.
Southampton Team News
Southampton manager, Mauricio Pellegrino had a brief spell with Liverpool back in 2005. He played just 12 times in the Premier League at centre-back, but his performances weren’t enough to extend his initial six-month contract. He was released and retired not long after. He eventually returned to Liverpool though, as a coach under Rafa Benitez and learned a lot from his boss, so the Reds should be familiar with his play style.
This fixture will see Virgil van Dijk face the team that so desperately tried to sign him in January, for the first time. The Dutch defender has started each of the last five matches after spending eight months off with a foot injury and many will expect to him to be distracted considering the context to this clash. However, Pellegrino says that van Dijk is 100% focussed on his performances for Southampton because he’ll believe there is a lot to prove after his injury and the transfer saga. Van Dijk will be protecting Fraser Forster, the man who saved a James Milner penalty last season, to help his side cling on for a 0-0 draw.
Southampton have confirmed that Mario Lemina will not be back in action after missing the last two matches with a foot injury. He was inactive over the international break but, despite having an extended rest, he will not be fully fit for tomorrow. Southampton will operate in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Manalo Gabbiadinni as a lone striker. The Italian burst onto the Premier League scene when he signed for Southampton in January, scoring five goals in his first three matches. Although things have dried up this season, scoring just three so far, he is their top-scorer and still the main threat coming forward.
Predicted Line Up: Forster; Bertrand, Hoedt, van Dijk, Soares; Davis, Romeu; Redmond, Boufal, Tadic; Gabbiadini.
It was a very positive international break for Liverpool, with personal successes for a number of players, so they should be raring to go again. A shaky Southampton side find themselves at 13th in the table, hoping that three points could boost them toward the top half. Although Liverpool have been questionable in defence this term, Anfield has not been fruitful for opposition strikers and I expect it to be the same for Southampton’s lacklustre attack tomorrow. A couple of goals for the Reds’ exciting forwards and this game will finish 2-0.