|Southampton 1 v 0 Liverpool|
Barclays Premier League
Monday, 4th January 2021 Kick-off 20:00
Saints V Liverpool The Preview
Monday, 4th Jan 2021 13:30
Usually it is a packed house and a cracking game, this year it will be empty seats and two sides ravaged by injury, Covid 19 & Erdinger adverts, can Saints end their losing streak of six games in a row ?
Saints will be without key players for the game against Liverpool tonight, Alex McCarthy in goal is the latest on the sick list after testing positive for Covid 19, on a good note at least that will silence some of his critics who claimed that he can never catch anything, on a serious note he has been in reasonable form of late and it will be a blow.
Fraser Forster will replace him, I am not a big critic of Fraser, for several years he was a rock in the Saints goal, but good keepers need a solid consistent defence in front of them, when he was in his golden period with Saints he had that, his form dipped when Fonte & Van Dijk left 3 years ago, keeper need to know what their defenders are going to do in front of them, Forster never had that again after January 2017.
So the question is whether he can rediscover his form at St Mary's, the irony is that he returns to the side just as we have had a solid central defensive pairing disrupted by injury.
Nathan Redmond looks likely to miss the game and that will be a blow, of the wide men available he is probably the one who can genuinely unlock a defence with skill a guile, Walcott does it with pace, Armstrong by surging forward and Djenepo by the fact that he doesn't know where he is going to run or what he is going to do and sometimes the opposition don't know either.
Redmond gets some stick, but he is a player that can hold his position take players on and open up defences, perhaps he doesn't do it with the consistency that is needed, but we have missed him in recent weeks.
I don't expect much of a different side to the one that took on West Ham, although I do think that McCarthy aside the only change made will be Armstrong in for Djenepo.
Otherwise it is hard to see where we can improve in any other position unless Ralph decides to surprise everyone by throwing in Salisu. Although I suspect that at some point he may experiment with either 3 central defenders or by 3 central midfielders, but I don't think this is the time to do it.
Liverpool have injury issues as well, but they are mainly defensively, they may have drew the last two games, but that was not due to a lack of possession in the final 3rd it was about failure to finish the chances they made.
From this perspective can an attack that includes Sadio Mane & Mo Salah mis fire for a 3rd game in a row, like Moussa Djenepo you just never now what you are going to get with Liverpool these days, will it be the side who failed to beat lowly Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle or the one that beat Spurs and then put 7 goals past Crystal Palace.
The game plan is simple, don't push up too far and let the likes of Mane and Salah get behind the defence, defend like madmen and throw everything at the ball and then attack with pace at them with the odd set piece thrown in.
The truth is since our last win against Sheffield United we have drawn 3 and lost 1 and although that defeat against Manchester City is no disgrace and we have had injury issues we have not performed at our best and perhaps should have won at least one of the last four.
We now need to get back to winning ways, hopefully tonight against Liverpool, but in the games after, if we do then we can genuinely challenge for a place in the top 6, if we don't then we will slip down the table.
This season is running a few games behind the usual number of games we would have played at this time of the season, by the end of January we will know whether we are genuine contenders or not.
So yes we can beat Liverpool, but then again they could just find their form again.
Of late we haven't been that great against them, after 2016/17 when we played them four times and were undefeated, we have lost six straight games in a row home and away.
The away games have all been routs, the last one 4-0 and the two before 3-0, but it has been closer in the home fixtures.
A look back at the team that lost three years ago in February 2018 to Liverpool shows a complete change, of the 18 on duty that day, only 8 are still at the club and only 4 are likely to start against Liverpool this evening.
This shows how far the club has come in the last three years, back then we were slipping towards the relegation zone, now a win would take us to 6th and only 4 points behind Liverpool in top spot.
This will be a difficult task but not impossible, but even a draw would see us up to 7th and that would be a good position to kick on in the New Year after a difficult run of games.
Photo: Action Images
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