Top of the table Liverpool visits the Saint Mary’s Stadium today as action resumes in the top flight following the international break.
Having cruised to well-worn victories in 5 of their 8 wins thus far, the Red half of Merseyside looks almost unstoppable, and as they play Southampton away from the electrifying atmosphere at Anfield, many are eager to know if their explosive form will continue against Claude Puel’s charges.
While Liverpool have only lost once and drawn on 2 occasions, their opponents have only won thrice, drawn 4 times and seen 4 defeats – including recent back-to-back losses to Chelsea and Hull City.
Based on the current forms of both sides, Liverpool, a beastly attacking team that put 6 goals past 8th placed Watford in their last fixture, aren’t the ideal opponents for the Saints to mount an instant bounce back following their most recent rot.
On the road and at home, Liverpool have displayed an unparalleled knack for putting opponents to the sword. In their 4 away victories, they have scored 12 goals, and at the same time proved their vulnerability at the back by shipping 7 goals.
Southampton boast of a great defence, and have only conceded 6 goals in all 5 Premier League games played at the Saint Mary’s. Of the 5, they have lost just once and drawn twice. However, Chelsea are the only top team they have played against at home, and Liverpool would likely prove a trickier opponent.
On the flip side and despite the attacking menace they have constantly posed, how much a threat Liverpool can be going forward without Lallana and Coutinho can’t be ascertained.
The 24-year-old forward, who is a great doubt for the clash has been responsible for 7 of the Reds away goals (3 goals, 4 assists), while the English international, unavailable for selection due to injury has a goal and assist away from Anfield.
Apart from the heavy blows that come with losing the duo, the south coast has proven to be a ground able to get results against the Reds, with last season’s 3-2 loss despite being 2 goals up for much of the game a much recent reminder.
But things have changed within the past 6 months. The star of that thrilling encounter Sadio Mane switched for Anfield over the off-season, and just like he was the difference in March when both sides last met in the Premier League, he could play a very vital role for Klopp’s men this time around.
Despite the likely absence of Coutinho in the attack, Daniel Sturridge could be joining the Senegalese and Firmino upfront, while Wijnaldum would replace Lallana in midfield.
Things are now different at the back, with Matip marshalling the defence and providing an assurance. As opposed to Skrtel who immediately gave Southampton a penalty after he was thrown in the last timeout to replace an already booked Lovren.
From the look of things, a victory looks certain for the visitors, though it might be hard-fought, partly down to the loss of their key players and a resilient Southampton backline that has Fonte and Virgil van Dijk at the heart of it.
But if there is a team that can hold on to that top spot and maintain an impressive start to such a season whilst coming against a very tough opponent, it’s Liverpool.