Sunday 17th August – 13:30 – Anfield
Liverpool have signed three players from Southampton this summer – Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren – for a combined fee of £49 million, as well as a number of other expensive stars. The Saints have also sold other big names, meaning St. Mary’s has also seen many arrivals this summer, the most recent of which was Shane Long from Hull City for £12 million, announced on Thursday. Whilst there have been many departures from the South Coast since the transfer window opened, there has been one big exit from Anfield. That is of course Luis Suarez, who left for Barcelona for £75 million in July. Sunday will be the first time The Reds will play league football without the influential Uruguayan. We will also see how new Southampton boss Ronald Koeman gets on in his first competitive game in charge. Overall, it’s a game which will see reunions, first times and give us an idea of how the new-look sides will fare next season after both surpassed expectations in 2013-14.
The Key Battle: Dejan Lovren vs Graziano Pellè
With Adam Lallana injured and Rickie Lambert is unlikely to start for his boyhood club, although it would be surprising not to see him at any point on Sunday, Liverpool’ s Croatian centre back Dejan Lovren is likely to be the only former Saint in the Reds’ starting line-up.
One of Southampton’s best performers last year, Lovren is likely to give an extra solidity to the Liverpool defence that Saints may find hard to break down, while their own pair of Jose Fonte and Maya Yoshida may find themselves somewhat more exposed than they were last year.
The 25 year old managed to get on the scoresheet on his debut against Borussia Dortmund, but goal-scoring comes unsurprisingly more naturally to Graziano Pelle, who notched 26 times for Ronald Koeman’s Feyenoord last season, and the Dutchman has brought Pelle to the South Coast with him for £8 million.
Without Lambert or the injured Jay Rodriguez (who is linked with an impending transfer anyway), the task of getting past Lovren and scoring the goals for Saints will fall to the Italian new signing.
Southampton will have to wait to see whether his form in the Eredivise form can translate to the Premier League, but if The Saints are going to get anything from this game they will need Pelle to break through a Liverpool defence marshaled around Lovren. Both players stand well over 6 foot tall, so this may prove a tough aerial battle for both.
- Brendan Rodgers will be without summer signing Adam Lallana for Liverpool’s first game of the season as the England international has a knee injury.
- Daniel Agger, Jon Flanagan and Lazar Markovic are doubts, but could feature in some capacity.
- Rodgers may be tempted to field that same XI which took to the field in the friendly against Borussia Dortmund last weekend, which would see Dejan Lovren, Javier Manquillo and Emre Can handed their first competitive starts for the Reds.
- After a summer fire-sale, Ronald Koeman may be tempted to start all of his 5 summer signings for the trip to Anfield.
- Fraser Forster, Ryan Bertrand, Saphir Taïder, Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pellè could all feature from the off as Southampton look to claim a huge scalp early in the new campaign.
- Jay Rodriguez is Koeman’s only injury concern, while wantaway midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin is expected to miss out here.
Liverpool wins = 4 / Southampton wins = 24 / Draws = 19
Last Meeting: Southampton 0-3 Liverpool (1st March 2014)
Liverpool strengthened their title challenge as a clinical victory over Southampton lifted them into second in the league table with just over two months to go of the 2013-14 season. Luis Suarez marked his 100th Premier League appearance by scoring his first goal for six games with a low finish from just inside the penalty area after 16 minutes. After half-time Adam Lallana (then of Southampton) was denied an equaliser by a post before Reds substitute Raheem Sterling made it 2-0 just before the hour mark. The teenager netted with his first touch after Suarez’s cross, and Steven Gerrard added the third with a penalty in the 90th minute after Suarez was brought down by Jose Fonte.
Stat of the Match
Seven of Southampton’s last eight opening games in the top division have been away from home. They have won just two of the previous seven (Drawn 2 & Lost 3).
Where can I watch it?
The game is live on Sky Sports 1 from 12:30 pm on Sunday, with the game itself kicking off an hour later. Alternatively, you can see highlights on Match of the Day 2 later on Sunday evening at 10:25 pm.
My Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Southampton
Despite losing Luis Suarez, there’s still goal-scoring quality in Liverpool’s side, including Daniel Sturridge, who will be their star striker this season and who I expect to score one in a 2-0 win for The Reds on Sunday at Anfield. The other may well be a Southampton own goal from, Jose Fonte, Maya Yoshida or even debutant Fraser Forster. Southampton will give it a very good go, but it should be a winning start for Brendan Rodgers’ side.