Liverpool’s enigmatic manager has called on fans to wake from the slumber of Saturday lunchtime, when Anfield was at it’s quietest to witness the shock 3-2 defeat to bottom side Swansea City.
Liverpool will need to reverse the 1-0 defeat from the first leg two weeks ago on the South Coast, although in all honesty they will just be glad it is only a deficit of one. Southampton dominated the first game, and in truth the Saints will be bitterly disappointed not to have further extended their lead.
The Reds have only won one game since the turn of the year, the FA Cup replay against Plymouth Argyle last Wednesday, having lost on Saturday and drawn against Manchester United and Sunderland. Nothing but victory tomorrow night will see them through to Wembley for the final in about five weeks time.
Jurgen Klopp used his press conference to rally the supporters, saying:
“If the crowd is good, then that would help”.
He had already criticised – quite correctly – the poor atmosphere immediately after the game against Swansea in the post-match interview.
The German also addressed key concerns surrounding players like Joel Matip and Jordan Henderson ahead of the game.
“[Henderson] always feels a little bit [of pain], but he can cope with it,” explained Klopp. The persistent heel issues are not believed to be related to one another, but the latest injury will become a big set-back if the captain is ruled out of future games. He is expected to start against Southampton and will then be rested at the weekend ready for Chelsea next Tuesday.
“[Matip] was injured for six weeks. It’s good [he is back] because he is a really good player”. Liverpool will be hoping that the Cameroonian can slot straight back in, having had a run-out against Ipswich Town under-23’s to gain match fitness, to shore up a very porous and mistake-laden defence that conceded three in the second half last time out.
Klopp refused to blame individuals for the defensive horror-show that returned at the weekend, but privately must admit that having Matip back to replace Ragnar Klavan is a huge boost.
Anfield will expect a much better performance from the players on the pitch on Wednesday, and in turn the atmosphere must surely dramatically improve.
Failure to win against Southampton, and then a loss against Wolves at the weekend, would mean the chances of winning a trophy this campaign would almost certainly have diminished – defeat to Chelsea next week, and that would certainly be the case.
Southampton provides an opportunity for Liverpool to get back on track; failure to go through could signal the decline of what was setting up to be a very promising season. The fixture is a crucial one, and a crucial point in the season.
When does the game kick off?
The match starts at 20:00 GMT and is live on Sky Sports.
Who is the referee?
Martin Atkinson – among the top referees in the world, not just in this country, Atkinson will be hoping for a quiet night with no controversy, although that appears impossible with all of the hysteria surrounding the state of officiating in the top flight at the moment. He has taken charge of Liverpool once this season – the 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in September – and was the referee for Southampton’s 0-0 draw away at Champions Leicester the following month. He has not refereed either side since then.
Opponents ones to watch?
Virgil van Dijk is constantly linked with a big-money move to some of the top clubs in the Premier League, including fellow title challengers Manchester City and Chelsea, but is likely to be out injured having picked up a knock at the weekend. He has arguably been the best centre-back in the league so far this season, so his absence would be a plus for the Reds.
Dusan Tadic has had a less stellar season, but is always a threat from out wide. The tricky Serbian wide player will look to drift in off Nathaniel Clyne and feed Jay Rodriguez. He has an eye for a pass and often is key to Southampton’s fortunes when they succeed.
Nathan Redmond could have scored four in the first leg, and is another to keep a close eye on. His direct running will test a Liverpool backline that struggled against Tom Carroll and Gylfi Sigurdsson: it could be a key battle.
Liverpool have eliminated Southampton in four of their last five EFL Cup ties. Southampton last knocked Liverpool out in 1999.
Liverpool: Karius; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Lallana, Wijnaldum; Firmino, Sturridge, Coutinho
Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Yoshida, van Dijk, Bertrand; Romeu, Højbjerg, Clasie; Tadic, Redmond, Rodriguez
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