Southampton will be the next hurdle to traverse for a Liverpool side seeking to maintain the pressure on title rivals Manchester City when the two sides meet at St Mary’s on Friday (8pm live on Sky Sports).
Liverpool were comfortable 3-0 winners at Anfield back in September, with an own goal from Wesley Hoedt and further strikes from Joel Matip and Mohamed Salah seeing them build up that advantage by half time. This is now a different Southampton.
That earlier result was one of seven defeats, alongside just a single victory, in Southampton’s first 14 matches of the campaign that left them in the bottom three in early December. It was then that they decided to part ways with Mark Hughes and bring in former RB Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhüttl to try and turn things around.
Turn things around he has. Southampton are still situated towards the bottom of the table and the threat of relegation has not yet been alleviated, but they are in a far stronger position than they were when he arrived. The UK-based bookmakers have five more teams more likely to be relegated, and even the most pessimistic still has them at a long 40/1 to go down.
Since Hasenhuttl’s appointment, after one match under the temporary charge of Kelvin Davis, Southampton actually have the ninth-best record in the Premier League, having taken 24 points from seven wins, three draws and six defeats. They have been over half a goal better at both ends of the pitch under his command, yielding a positive average goal differential where before Saints were giving up over a goal per match by that measure.
The team’s underlying statistics are not quite as impressive, but they are trending in the right direction, further underlining the excellent work Hasenhuttl has done with an unchanged squad. It would be a surprise if Southampton went down from here, particularly as Friday’s match is by far the toughest of their remaining seven fixtures.
Liverpool are clearly the favourites to emerge victorious, but they should certainly be wary of a side who have defeated Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and drawn with Chelsea with their current coach at the helm. Particularly so as Liverpool’s away form hasn’t been all that great since the turn of the year, comprising as it has of two wins, three draws and one defeat.
Jurgen Klopp’s side came very close to handing Manchester City a potentially decisive advantage in the title race at home to Tottenham last weekend. After a strong first half, in which Roberto Firmino provided them with an early lead, Liverpool were pinned back by their visitors after the break and gave up an equaliser. Just as two dropped points looked likely, a defensive mixup produced a match-winning own goal in the final minute of play.
If Liverpool had failed to force a winner, City would have been able to establish a three-point lead at the top of the table. With their superior goal difference, that would essentially have allowed them to drop points once and still emerge as the champions as long as they won all of their other matches. As it is, Liverpool are still within striking distance if City stumble.
Klopp’s side were handed a slight advantage by the draw for the last eight of the Champions League. There, they will face Porto, the weakest of the sides still involved, whereas City have Spurs. That means that Liverpool will likely be able to rest a couple of players either side of their hardest remaining league fixture against Chelsea. City will go into a league double header with Spurs and Manchester United on the back of a tougher European tie. For any of that to be relevant, Liverpool must first avoid a potential banana skin away on the south coast.
Our Preview’s Southampton vs. Liverpool Betting Tips Verdict
Southampton are undoubtedly a better side under Hasenhuttl and they might prove a surprisingly difficult team to beat.
- Bet on Southampton to win or draw (on the ‘double chance’ betting market) @ best odds of 2/1 with Bet365.