Liverpool v Southampton [EFL Cup 2nd Leg] – Preview

Liverpool have to overturn a one-goal deficit from the EFL Cup semi-final first leg, when they welcome visitors Southampton to Anfield for the second leg on Wednesday night.

Following Liverpool’s shock defeat at home to strugglers Swansea on Saturday lunchtime, confidence at Anfield at the moment is at a premium.

The Reds have stuttered in the league this month – with Jurgen Klopp’s side firing blanks in 2017, we are yet to win a single league game.

Earlier this month, Jurgen Klopp reiterated that the Reds would have a Plan B without the direct & pacey influence of Sadio Mane, who is at the AFCON, serving his native Senegal. He made his point even more explicit earlier today, in his pre-match press conference.

Despite Klopp’s prophecy earlier this month, we have not seen any evidence of a Plan B. As mentioned, we have seen a mix of personnel & different systems each game, but something just doesn’t seem quite right.

Our lack of squad depth was on show during Saturday’s defeat, and the first-leg’s abject failure at St Mary’s – of which Liverpool were lucky to come away from the tie only 1-0 down.

The consensus was that Loris Karius had made some superb saves to keep Liverpool in with a fighting chance to reach Wembley – for the second successive time, in the same competition.

However, Liverpool simply CANNOT afford to have the same amount of poor individual performances as last time out. Complacency & a poor attitude isn’t an option – as we learnt last time out in the league. More energy from the off will be required.

Starting XI 

This was the side that started against Southampton last time out:

screenshot_53

There are several problems with this line up:

  1. Lucas & Can are not a good combination in midfield. Shouldn’t be playing together.
  2. Lucas should be deeper
  3. Firmino must be playing central – not out wide, as this limits his game.
  4. Lallana must be moved to the midfield, where he is a lot more effective and creative.
  5. Sturridge doesn’t have the legs to play out wide. Origi, does.

I felt that, had Lallana been moved to midfield in Can’s position, and Wijnaldum swapped for Lucas in the midfield three – plus Firmino moving to central attack, and Origi being chosen ahead of Sturridge, and Ojo on the other wing, we may have stood a chance. But, I appreciate we had several seniors players out then – so here’s my team, with our available team:

screenshot_54

The CB partnership has to be Matip-Gomez here. Because, for me, Matip adds that physicality & composure lacking from our defence in recent weeks. Also, Joe Gomez has proved to be a very mature CB, who is growing in confidence. He is less error-strewn than the likes of Ragnar Klavan & Dejan Lovren.

Going forward, we have a fully-fit Philippe Coutinho – he was substituted following our equaliser against Swansea – this was later confirmed to be personnel, as Klopp tried to revert to a 4-4-2. A diamond 4-4-2 could work here – but our midfield leaves me worried about the lack of physicality. That said though, our centre-midfielders such as Henderson & Lallana cover a lot of ground, in that respect.

Central is Firmino. He seems to be a lot more effective there – uses his energy to press, scores goals, works hard & makes intelligent runs. We’ve seen that since the game at Old Trafford, and he popped up with two on Saturday.

On the right is Origi. I’m not the biggest fan of the way he presses, but he does have the legs, unlike Sturridge. Playing him out wide recently as manifested itself in failure.

Prediction

Liverpool were abject in the first leg, as I said – so different personnel & a wholly different attitude is needed. If Liverpool go out all guns blazing BUT don’t understand Southampton, the Reds have a fighting chance – especially with Firmino’s workrate & Coutinho’s flair. We must stay focused throughout; an early start is vital, we simply cannot afford to be as lethargic in the first few minutes, like we were against Swansea.

I’m going for a Liverpool win, because I can’t bring myself to think about an opportunity to go to Wembley for the second successive year scuppered – and a Liverpool Twitter meltdown, AGAIN. If we win, we could find ourselves tied up against the old enemy, too. It’s time to prove everyone wrong. Let’s bring the house down on Wednesday!

Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Southampton 

Statistics

A bit of trivia for you!

Last year, the Reds were tied up against Stoke. We did win the first leg at Potteries 1-0, thanks to a solitary Jordan Ibe strike. But, the second leg was a completely different story. Arnautovic scored on the stroke of half-time to ensure the Potters took the game to extra time. Joe Allen – who else – scored the winning penalty to send the Reds to the final. 7 months later, he’d be wearing a red & white shirt!

Also, Liverpool’s record from bouncing back after defeats is positive:

Following Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat at Burnley, we embarked on a 15-match unbeaten run, ensuring we topped the league by early November, prior to the international break.

Additionally, preceding a 4-3 meltdown at Dean Court in early December & a draw at home to West Ham on December 11, we won four games on the spin – away at Middlesbrough & rivals Everton, and at home to Stoke & Man City – testifying our character [not intended to allude Brendan Rodgers!]

Hopefully, the Reds can produce a similar response on Wednesday. Could this prove to be another rehabilitation on the road to consolidating a top 4 finish?

Or, will it be continued mediocrity? Time will tell, but let’s all get behind the team anyway.

Bets

Fancy a punt for Liverpool to march onto Wembley at the expense of Southampton? Back the Red at 8/15 – or a Southampton win at 5/1, with Sky Bet.

Oh, and finally, please take some time, to have a breather – and heed notice to this. It’s very important. We need the fans to get behind the side & satisfy Jurgen’s rallying cry..

Written by Stephen Lindell (@SteLindellLFC)

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