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    Liverpool vs Southampton Match Preview


    Jurgen Klopp can expect a rapturous reception when he takes his seat in the Anfield dugout for the first time in a league game as he aims to win his first match as Liverpool manager against Southampton on Sunday. After recording two draws in his opening two matches, the German has endured a challenging start to his Liverpool career but he will be hoping to claim the victory that has so far eluded him in front of his adoring fans who have so far embraced him during his short time in English football.

    Liverpool lacked the cutting edge to break down stubborn Russian opponents Rubin Kazan on Thursday night, recording 35 efforts on goal, from which only Emre Can managed to find the back of the net from nine shots on target. Klopp awarded the performance 98 per cent, putting the two per cent that his side lacked down to decision making. His efforts to provide the missing formula will be boosted by the return of Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, who both came on as substitutes, although it is doubtful that Daniel Sturridge will be able to recover in time from the knee injury he suffered in training prior to Klopp's first game in charge against Tottenham.

    There have been early signs that the Liverpool players have bought into the German's philosophy of high-press, full-throttle football, as was demonstrated by the total distance his players covered against Tottenham, four kilometers further than in any of their previous matches this season. All that is now missing is the clinical finishing provided by the likes of Philippe Coutinho on the opening match of the season at the Britannia Stadium, Christian Benteke with his spectacular bicycle kick at Old Trafford and Daniel Sturridge, who gave a finishing masterclass against Aston Villa.



    Klopp admitted that Thursday night's draw was not the house warming present he had been looking for but assured his fans that he would come again. Sunday's party guests Southampton will be hoping to rain on Klopp's latest Anfield parade and can take encouragement from the knowledge that they won at Anfield two seasons ago, when Dejan Lovren, now a Liverpool player, scored the only goal of the game. They come into the Sunday's encounter in good form, having suffered just three defeats in 14 matches so far this season, although they may carry some scars from a week ago, having surrendered a 2-0 lead to draw with Leicester City.

    There will be plenty of reunions taking place at Anfield, with £57.5 million of former Southampton talent on display in the form of Lovren, Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne. There has always been a close association between the two clubs, with a total of nine players representing both teams since the start of the Premier League. The sides are also close when it comes to the league table, with Liverpool, 12th, and Southampton, ninth - two of five teams that are sat on 13 points. A win could take either side into the top six and a defeat could open up a seven point deficit between themselves a place in the top four, with the Manchester derby and Tottenham's visit to Bournemouth also having a bearing on positions.



    With Liverpool struggling for goals this season, they will look to Christian Benteke to provide the cutting edge that has been missing in both of Klopp's first two matches in charge. The £32.5million signing from Aston Villa is, along with the inexperienced Divock Origi, Liverpool's only recognized out-and-out striker in the absence of Danny Ings and Daniel Sturridge. The Belgian has struggled in his short time at the club, scoring two goals in seven matches, although this is down in part to the burden he carried earlier in the season by being deployed as an isolated striker as well as the injury lay-off he has subsequently endured. As he proved last season at Aston Villa, scoring 12 goals in the final 13 games, he is a player who can be deadly in front of goal when playing at the top of his form and given good service.

    Another key player for Liverpool is Mamadou Sakho, who appears to have been given a new lease of life under Klopp, having been in and out of the team under Brendan Rodgers. The French international has been 'absolutely spectacular' in the words of his manager following the draw against Rubin Kazan and will again need to be at his best if the Reds are to keep the likes of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane quiet on Sunday. Liverpool have struggled for consistency in defence this season so it will be another opportunity for Sakho to impress Klopp in an important game and prove that Rodgers was wrong to leave him out the side earlier in the season.

    If Southampton are to come away from Anfield with a victory, then Virgil van Dijk and Jose Fonte will need to be at the top of their form in order to curb the threat posed by the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Christian Benteke. The two have shown early signs of forming a solid defensive partnership and this was most evident in the 3-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, when they restricted a Chelsea team that contained Radamel Falcao, Oscar and Eden Hazard to very few chances. Both players have also made their international debuts within the past year, with Fonte helping Portugal reach the final stages of Euro 2016 and van Dijk part of the Netherlands team that narrowly failed to make the play-offs.



    Sadio Mane was also impressive at Stamford Bridge and he may need to be at his best again if they are to record another famous victory on Sunday. The Senegalese winger has been in imperious form, having scored four goals in his last four games, and possesses the pace, trickery and ruthlessness in front of goal that will pose problems, even to the world's best defenders. Southampton's recruitment of players from all over the globe in recent years has been the envy of many Premier League teams and in Mane, they have perhaps their most valuable asset.

    Liverpool go into the match with the better recent head-to-head record, having beaten Sunday's opponents the last three times they have played and in four of the last six encounters since Southampton were promoted back to the Premier League in 2012. Daniel Sturridge scored a late winner in this fixture at Anfield last season in a 2-1 victory and they hold a 7-1 aggregate score against the Saints in those past three meetings. Liverpool also hold the better overall record, having won 17 times in all competitions since the start of the Premier League, with Southampton boasting 10 wins and seven of those matches finishing in draws.



    Christian Benteke (hamstring) and Roberto Firmino (back) are likely to return to the Liverpool line-up after coming on as substitutes in Thursday night's draw against Rubin Kazan having both spent the last month on the sidelines. Daniel Sturridge is a doubt for Liverpool having undergone an ultrasound on a knee injury while Jordan Rossiter faces a month out after picking up a hamstring injury whilst representing England Under 19s. He joins Danny Ings, Joe Gomez (both knee), Jordan Henderson (metatarsal) and Jon Flanagan (knee) on the sidelines.

    Southampton goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg will play after recovering from a back injury, while Cedric Soares is also available having sustained a cut above his eye against Leicester. Shane Long is likely to face at least another week on the sidelines having picked up an ankle injury on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, whilst Florin Gardos and Fraser Forster (both knee) remain long-term injury absentees.

    Score Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Southampton
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    Item Reviewed: Liverpool vs Southampton Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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