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On Monday night, Southampton host champion Liverpool in their first match of the year as both teams look to regain their early season form.
The festive period brought very few gifts for Monday’s hosts as they are in ninth place as the new year begins after a strong start to proceedings. The Saints haven’t been able to win in their last four, only scoring once in the process.
It’s been a similar Christmas performance for the red half of Merseyside (by their high standards), as recently lost points have brought pressure from Manchester United rivals at the summit. Liverpool hope to take all three points as Jurgen Klopp’s men look to keep a cushion in first place.
When does it start? Monday, January 4
What time does it start? 20:00 (GMT)
Where do you play? Santa Maria Stadium
Television channel? Sky sports
Both teams will miss their usual strong presence at the rear as Jannik Vestergaard will miss Liverpool’s visit with a knee injury that has left the central defender in the last two games. Nathan Redmond is also unlikely to appear.
In keeping with the unprecedented nature of this season, Ralph Hassenhuttl has been cleared to return to the touchline after being forced to miss the West Ham draw with a positive COVID test.
Liverpool’s injury crisis means the champions will be left without key men, with Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Djik out of the game. In his absence, Klopp will likely enlist the services of Nathaniel Phillips. It is doubtful that Diogo Jota and Naby Keita are involved, however Thiago’s return to the team to face Newcastle provided a much-needed boost to the Reds.
Southampton: McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand; Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Romeo, Walcott; Ings, Adams
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson; Jones, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Southampton’s form has shrunk since their loss to Manchester City in early December. The Saints have struggled to win again since then, tying two games on the rebound. Vestergaard’s absence from behind has been a huge loss for Hassenhuttl. The Austrian coach has lost an enormous defensive presence that has proven to be a threat in both boxes.
Liverpool have also lost four points in their last two, finding no advantage against West Brom and Newcastle, respectively. Recent demonstrations by the champions have further raised the hopes of other clubs hoping to mount a quest for the Premier League title this season, with Manchester United increasingly looking like a viable challenge to their crown.
Southampton 0-0 West Ham (12/26)
Fulham 0-0 Southampton (26/12)
Southampton 0-1 Manchester City (19/12)
Arsenal 1-1 Southampton (16/12)
Southampton 3-0 Sheffield United (12/13)
Newcastle 0-0 Liverpool (12/30)
Liverpool 1-1 West Brom (27/12)
Crystal Palace 0-7 Liverpool (19/12)
Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham (16/12)
Fulham 1-1 Liverpool (12/13)
The talent on the Southampton squad has shown that they are more than capable of upsetting some feathers in terms of the Premier League top positions.
Liverpool are number one in the league, but their recent displays show they are not untouchable. However, with the teams behind them finding their way, their journey to the south coast is a must-win game.
Both teams like to play football at a fast pace, with a lot of pressure and opportunities created, and you would favor Liverpool with their attacking quality if it turned into a shootout. However, recent matches by both sides show they are missing a clinical advantage … and Liverpool could suffer again.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Liverpool