Following an unexpected title push last season, Liverpool’s quest to re-establish themselves as a regular top four side begins when they host Southampton at Anfield on Sunday (13:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
The Reds finished last season just two points shy of eventual Premier League champions Manchester City following a superb post-Christmas run that saw them lose just one of their last 19 matches of the campaign – a sequence that included a run of 11 consecutive victories.
Last season’s top scorer Luis Suarez has departed for Barcelona, but Liverpool have retained their other standout performers and were able to use the proceeds of that transfer to partially fund a recruitment drive that has so far seen them spend upwards of £90 million on six new players. Fringe players have been sold or loaned out to clear space in the squad.
Three of the new arrivals came from Sunday’s opponents. Dejan Lovren will challenge for a starting spot in central defence, Adam Lallana will hope to combine successfully with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling in the attacking midfield zone, while Rickie Lambert (pictured) will offer a more robust option up front when required.
With Daniel Sturridge still on board, and the exciting Serbian international Lazar Markovic also added to their ranks, Liverpool seem likely to continue with the swashbuckling, counter-attacking style that proved so effective last season. Brendan Rodgers’ side have performed well during pre-season and will be hopeful of another strong campaign.
Rodgers will definitely be without the injured Lallana (knee) for Sunday’s match, while Daniel Agger (knee), Fabio Borini (shoulder), John Flanagan (knee), Markovic (knock) and Tiago Ilori (muscle) are all doubtful.
Southampton achieved a strong eighth place finish last season playing attractive and energetic football. However, following a summer in which their coach and a number of first team regulars have headed for pastures new, a more challenging season could now await.
Ronald Koeman, whose managerial CV includes three Dutch league titles with Ajax and PSV Eindhoven and a Spanish Cup triumph with Valencia, is the man charged with bringing order and discipline to a squad that has undergone significant turnover. Saints have sold or loaned out six of last year’s team and in turn signed seven new players.
The departures have weakened Saints at both ends of the pitch. Lallana and Lambert provided 14 goals and 16 assists between them last season and with top scorer Jay Rodriguez injured, Koeman will have to hope that new recruits Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle and Shane Long can hit the ground running.
In defence, the absence of Lovren is likely to be keenly felt. Jose Fonte looked relatively solid in tandem with the Croatian international last season, but is always less secure when teamed with Maya Yoshida, his likely partner on Sunday. Saints completed the signing of Florin Gardos from Steaua Bucharest on Thursday and once settled he is likely to be a regular starter.
Koeman will, as previously mentioned, be without Rodriguez (knee) for the trip to Anfield, but he otherwise looks to have a full squad to pick from.
Liverpool vs Southampton Betting Tips Verdict
Southampton won 1-0 in last season’s equivalent fixture, but Liverpool were comfortable 3-0 winners when the sides met at St Mary’s in March. Saints generally have a decent record at Anfield, having won three and drawn two of their last 10 visits to the stadium. Liverpool only dropped eight points at home throughout the entirety of last season.
Both teams have been heavily involved in the transfer market this summer and it is therefore difficult to gauge exactly where they are coming into the new campaign. Suarez aside, Liverpool have retained the same core and although it may take time for some of their new signings to settle, the starting XI is unlikely to have changed dramatically from last season.
Southampton, on the other hand, have sold a number of players who contributed greatly to last season’s success. Koeman is a good coach and over the course of the season should be expected to lead them comfortably clear of the relegation places. It will, though, take time for them to gel into a coherent team. Liverpool should therefore be considered the favourites for victory on Sunday.
- Back Liverpool -1.5 on the Asian Handicap @ 21/20 with Bet365.
- Sturridge scored 21 goals last season, including a run of three consecutive match-winning strikes in the early weeks of the campaignwhen Suarez was suspended. With the Uruguay international now departed, Sturridge is Liverpool’s primary goal threat. Back Daniel Sturridge to score at anytime @ 21/20 with Bet365.