A narrow 1-0 lead is what Southampton will take to Anfield for Wednesday’s EFL Cup semi-final second leg, and the key to determining this fixture may well be how much does Jurgen Klopp want to win it.
The answer is, probably, quite a lot: his Liverpool side are now ten points behind Chelsea in the race for the Premier League title, with Saturday’s 2-3 defeat at the hands of Swansea cruelly exposing their frailties defensively. Just 90 minutes away from a Wembley showpiece and 180 away from getting hands on silverware, Klopp and his men will fancy the job here.
But we must not write off Southampton: this match is their metaphorical ‘cup final’ – the game on which their season hangs. If they can score here, which plenty have done against the Reds of late, then they will surely progress to the final courtesy of the away goals rule.
A fine balancing act between attack and defence for Liverpool then; can they get the job done?
Obviously there are two facets to this fixture – the match winner and team to qualify – and bizarrely we are going to back both sides as a result.
The Saints only need to score a solitary goal to leave the Reds needing to net at least three times to progress, and given how Liverpool have struggled defensively of late – shipping six in their last three Premier League matches – and the continued absence of Joel Matip is not helping on that front. Their midfield shield, Jordan Henderson, is struggling with injury and may not be risked as a date with Chelsea next Tuesday looms.
We must not get carried away by Southampton’s 3-0 win over Leicester on Sunday as the Foxes were abysmal, but the Saints will surely enjoy playing on the counter attack at Anfield. That suits lively customers like Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond, and we believe they will score at least once here. As such, we expect Southampton to Qualify for a day out at Wembley (10/11 with bet365).
But, as mentioned, we do like Liverpool’s chances of winning here. Southampton are likely to be without Virgil van Dijk, who limped off against Leicester, and given the sale of Jose Fonte the Saints are woefully understaffed at centre half. That’s not a situation you want to be in ahead of a trip to Merseyside, and so the Liverpool Win & Both Teams to Score market (9/4 with Betfair) looks fair game.
We’ve covered the main angles of attack already, and in truth there is little else of interest here. Over 2.5 Goals is far too short at 3/4, and that is perhaps the best avenue of opportunity.
So instead we’ll take a punt on two Anytime Goalscorer wagers for either side: Roberto Firmino (7/5 with William Hill) and Jay Rodriguez (7/2 with Betfred).
Firmino will surely start through the middle in a game of this magnitude, and a brace against Swansea at the weekend continued his fine run of goalscoring at Anfield this season. Without Van Dijk and Fonte to marshal him, the Brazilian is likely to get plenty of freedom in the final third.
Rodriguez has been chipping in with goals of late in the absence of Charlie Austin, and he will presumably once again lead the line for Southampton. With the Reds pushing forward with gay abandon, there will be plenty of space in their half of the pitch to exploit.
Liverpool to Win & Both Teams to Score (9/4 with Betfair)
Southampton to Qualify (10/11 with bet365)
Roberto Firmino Anytime Goalscorer (7/5 with William Hill)
Jay Rodriguez Anytime Goalscorer (7/2 with Betfred)