Can Liverpool continue their momentum at Southampton?
Last weekend we saw the very best and the very worst of Liverpool, all within ninety minutes. While their irresistible strikeforce was running riot, the defence was looking worryingly incompetent. It says all you need to know about the state of Liverpool’s defence when Brendan Rodgers turns to Kolo Touré to shore up the defence.
Southampton win – 3.50
Liverpool win – 2.00
Draw – 3.40
(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)
The major problem for Liverpool at the back this season has been a raft of injuries. Very rarely have Liverpool had a settled defence and this has constantly been an issue. Throughout all these injuries the mainstay of the defence has been Martin Škrtel. Škrtel is one of the more bizarre footballers of recent times. He can look an imposing, impregnable rock at the back; more often than not though he reverts to default and to his unique form of daft wrestling in the box. He also has an ability to score own-goals at a frequency that would make Frank Sinclair proud.
Škrtel’s eccentricities have perhaps not been helped by new goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet. The Belgian has proven himself to be an excellent shot-stopper, however he often remains fixed to his line when crosses come in, a stark contrast to his predecessor Pepe Reina. This unwillingness to come and collect the ball doesn’t aid the panic that is never far away from this Liverpool defence. A compromise between goalkeeper and defence needs to be found quickly if it isn’t to derail Liverpool’s title push.
Whilst the defence has floundered, the forwards have regularly bailed them out. Liverpool have been a joy to watch this season. Their attacking play has often been breath-taking culminating in the first twenty minutes against Arsenal a few weeks ago, where they simply annihilated the then league-leaders.
Here is where Brendan Rodgers has to take a lot of credit. He is clearly an excellent coach. Luis Suárez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling have all improved immeasurably over the last eighteen months. The likes of Jordan Henderson and Jon Flanagan have also managed to kick on another level; Rodgers has certainly made the most of what he has at Anfield.
The Southampton game is a huge test for this Liverpool side. Rodgers has lost to Mauricio Pochettino on the two previous occasions that they have met as managers, while Southampton are the only opposition side to win at Anfield this season and will have every right to feel confident going into Saturday’s clash.
Southampton’s season is in danger of petering out though. They are safely in mid-table, they have no fears of relegation, but equally qualification for Europe looks completely out of reach. Many of the team are however playing for a place in England’s World Cup squad, and a strong performance on Saturday will certainly do the likes of Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and recent call-up Luke Shaw no harm.
This game feels very much like a crossroads for Rodgers’ Liverpool. A defeat will halt their momentum and leave them looking over the shoulders. However a win will keep the dream going that perhaps in this very open year, Liverpool can be the ones to emerge and snatch a very unlikely title win.
The two extremes in Liverpool’s side should guarantee goals. They are unbeaten in their last eight league games and should be able to end their bad run against Southampton and just squeak a narrow victory.
Betting Instinct Tip – After Liverpool’s seven-goal thriller against Swansea last week, more than 3.5 goals is 2.40 with GR88.com, while if you’re feeling really bold more than 4.5 goals is available at 4.30.
LIAM McCONVILLE is an avid cricket fan, a hapless village cricketer and a Yorkshireman with an irrational hatred of Jade Dernbach. He rants about the game he loves at http://www.fortyballduck.blogspot.co.uk/ and @FortyBallDuck on Twitter.