Southampton v Liverpool
Monday 4 January, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports
Saints aiming to shake off minor blip
It’s already been a season of highs and lows for Southampton, and rather fittingly they now find themselves right in the middle of the table.
The low point for Ralph Hasenhüttl‘s men was starting the 2020/21 campaign with three straight defeats, including a home loss to Championship outfit Brentford in the Carabao Cup and conceding five at St Mary’s in a defeat to Tottenham.
But the Saints quickly turned the tide and went on a six-game unbeaten run, culminating in the highlight of their season so far, going top of the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history thanks to a 2-0 win over Newcastle.
Seven points from the next 12 available kept Southampton in and around the top four, but then came their current blip, a four-game winless run in which they’ve failed to score a single goal in three of those matches.
In fairness the Saints only lost one of those four games (D3 L1) and that was by a single goal to Manchester City in a game where they performed very well, while they were the better team in a 1-1 draw at Arsenal too, so it’s a bit of a stretch to say Hasenhüttl’s men have fallen dramatically out of form.
Southampton were undeniably below par in their most recent back-to-back goalless draws with Fulham and West Ham however, and the continued absence of influential centre-back Jannik Vestergaard – who has scored three league goals this season – is sure to be felt.
Champions not quite at their best
It’s perhaps just a sign of the strange times that we’re in that defending Premier League champions Liverpool have themselves become rather inconsistent.
Jurgen Klopp‘s men can be magnificent at times, like when they thrashed Crystal Palace 7-0 just a few weeks ago, but they’ve also had some hugely disappointing performances; the 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa springs to mind while their first half performance at Fulham in mid-December was as bad as I can remember the Reds performing in recent seasons.
That loss to Villa remains Liverpool’s only league defeat of the season however, and they’re currently on an unbeaten run of 12 games in the Premier League, though only half of those have been wins (W6 D6).
Rather surprisingly, Liverpool’s most recent quartet of draws have come against Brighton, Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle, four teams at the wrong end of the table, suggesting that Klopp’s men are struggling to break down teams that are happy to defend a point.
Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez remain long terms absentees so Klopp will once again be without his three senior centre-backs with the news that Joel Matip has been ruled out for three weeks with a pelvic/hip injury. Nathaniel Phillips is likely to keep his place alongside Fabinho in the back four.
Saints’ record against big boys points to away win
This is a fascinating clash between two teams that haven’t exactly enjoyed a great festive period. Southampton have failed to score in their last three games and are now winless in four, while Liverpool will be disappointed to have taken just two points from games against West Brom and Newcastle.
But if Saints were looking for the ideal game to halt their mini blip then this isn’t it. Opta tell us that Southampton have lost all of their last six Premier League clashes with Liverpool by an aggregate score of 17-2!
It’s highly unlikely that Southampton will play in the style of Liverpool’s last two opponents, where the Reds’ didn’t quite have the guile to break down West Brom and Newcastle’s packed and well-organised defence, and I feel that a more open, end-to-end game – a bit like Saints v Man City a few weeks ago – will favour Klopp’s men.
Hasenhüttl’s men can defend, as evidenced by their seven clean sheets this season, but it’s not their style to sit back and play for a point – especially with Vestergaard absent – and I have to fancy Liverpool at 1.728/11 in the Match Odds to take all three points.
Against the big boys, Saints have already conceded five against Tottenham, three against Chelsea and Manchester United, and while they only shipped one against Man City that was a game that could have had any number of goals. I fancy we’re in for an entertaining match, but it will be the Reds that out-score their opponents.
If you do fancy a minor shock then you can back Southampton at 5.24/1 for the win with the draw available at 4.57/2.
Combine Liverpool win with Salah finding the back of the net
When Southampton hosted Man City in mid-December the Over 2.5 Goals option traded at around 1.51/2 before kick-off, which was very understandable. It’s trading at around 1.728/11 here which is likely a consequence of Saints’ recent goalless draws and Liverpool only scoring once in games against West Brom and Newcastle.
It looks a generous price when you consider some of Southampton’s scorelines against teams at the top end of the table – 2-5 (v Spurs), 3-3 (v Chelsea), 3-4 (v Villa) and 2-3 (v Man Utd) – but it’s not one that I like to recommend on its own.
So my main be will be Liverpool Win and Over 2.5 Goals at around 2.68/5 on the Exchange – a bet that has landed in five of their last six meetings with the Saints – while we can add those two options to Mo Salah getting on the scoresheet at anytime in a Same Game Multi at just a tad shy of 5/2 (3.43).
The Egyptian has scored seven goals in his six Premier League games against the Saints, he’s the division’s leading scorer, and he’s in good form having found the net six times in has last seven outings.
He’s also Liverpool’s penalty taker of course, and the Reds have been awarded at least one spot-kick in every month of the current season so far.
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has scored seven goals in his six Premier League games against Southampton, only scoring more against Bournemouth (8) and Watford (8) in the competition.