We currently sit at third in the league after the somewhat controversial draw against Tottenham, five points behind Manchester United and one point above Chelsea. The two penalties awarded for Tottenham may seem unfair, but it is time to move on now. Up next for our Reds is Southampton, who we beat in November in the league at home 3-0. Out for our team is Bogdan, Clyne, and Klavan.
Like I mentioned last time, every single game is a must win. A strong lineup is preferred for this match. I would say a 4-3-3 of Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, VVD, Robertson; Can, Henderson, Wijdnaldum; and Salah, Firmino, and Mane up top.
Southampton seem to operate in a 4-2-3-1. The two defensive midfielders are without a doubt more defensive minded to help shield the defense. Their fullbacks give the width in the attack, more so with Bertrand than anything else. Pellegrino prefers a positional style of play, but he has had a hard time trying to implement it at Southampton.
Defensively, I say we make them play the two defensive midfielders and surround them with our forwards and midfielders (6 players). Once one of them has the ball, the player closest to him can apply immediate pressure, and our other players can go man to man. The immediate pressure and immediate lack of options should force an error from the player with the ball. From there, we can spring Mane and Salah through the channels like normal, and utilize the speed they possess. To give them some room to run onto, it may be best to attempt to win the ball back by midfield. If that option is not available, we can always depend on Firmino who can receive the ball and delay play a bit while our wingers catch up to join the counter.
In an attacking sense, we may need to overpopulate the middle. Southampton will have their two defensive midfielders and four attacking players clog up the middle, assuming they will also play 4-2-3-1 defensively. To open up opportunities out wide for Mane and Salah, we may need to overpopulate the middle ourselves. In other words, to get to the outside, we need players in the middle. Then when they put pressure on our midfield we can attack outside, which becomes free. This means that our three midfielders play narrowly, and Firmino sits in the space between the defensive midfielders and two centerbacks. Maybe our fullbacks even pinch in a bit during build up. Leave the outside channels completely alone besides Mane and Salah.
When it is all said and done I expect a narrow scoreline, but a rather dominant performance.