Essential pre-match viewing/reading:
“Liverpool are starting an outfield of three forwards, four attacking midfielders, two attack-minded fullbacks, and one holding midfielder,” notes Paul Done. “Heavy metal football has returned.”
Ralph Hasenhüttl has a chat with Sky, first about Fraser Forster:
He developed his game massively with Andrew. All the goalkeepers made a good step forward. They are very oftne part of our sessions also. You can see he never stopped learning and now is the chance for him to play.
Then about the absence of Che Adams and Oriol Romeu:
Both have injury problems. I think Che everybody saw in the last game a horrible kick in the head, he had concussion. Oriol had problems with his calf in the session and it’s not wise to take a risk, it’s more important to have him in the next weeks.
And finally about the prospect of facing a Fabinho-Henderson backline:
Both still are fantastic footballers, and I know they are tactical on the highest level so it’s not difficult for them to defend as a centre-back, and when you see Thiago plays, it’s definitely a team with very good players in every position. You don’t see a lot of weaknesses in this team.
So Southampton bring in Fraser Forster in goal, with Diallo and Armstrong also coming in while McCarthy, Romeu and Adams drop out (not just out of the team, but the entire matchday squad). Liverpool also make three changes, with Thiago, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum in and Jones, Milner and Phillips dropped to the bench. Jordan Henderson partners Fabinho in central defence.
Team news is in, and this is how the two teams line up:
Southampton: Forster, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand, Djenepo, Ward-Prowse, Diallo, Armstrong, Ings, Walcott. Subs: Long, Valery, Smallbone, Tella, Vokins, Ramsay, N’Lundulu, Lewis, Chauke.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Fabinho, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Thiago, Salah, Firmino, Mane. Subs: Milner, Jones, Minamino, Shaqiri, Origi, Rhys Williams, Phillips, Kelleher, Neco Williams.
Referee: Andre Marriner.
The team with the sixth-best home record plays the side with the 11th-best away results: this should be pretty one-sided. But Southampton are without goalkeeper Alex McCarthy after a positive Covid test, Danny Ings has only scored once in the last two months and Che Adams is, according to Ralph Hasenhuttl, “a little bit tired I think at the moment”. Meanwhile Liverpool might be able to call on Thiago for what would be just a second start this season. “We will see,” said Jürgen Klopp. “He has a chance. Honestly, the boys who did the job so far did exceptionally well so it is not we cannot survive if he does not start the next game but it is very good he is now fit and is obviously in contention. I like that a lot.”
The last six league games between these teams have featured 19 goals, and I like that a lot. Liverpool, notably, have won them all.
Here’s how the teams might look (obviously McCarthy won’t be playing, and Adams perhaps likewise, and it’s largely guesswork, but it might be a useful guide, and failing that be mildly visually pleasing):
And here’s Jürgen Klopp on this year’s title fight: