Liverpool desperately need a win at St. Mary’s after a forgettable Christmas that has blown the title race wide open. The champions looked set to make it two-in-a-row after their 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace but proceeded to draw their two most-recent games against West Brom and Newcastle in underwhelming circumstances.
The home draw with West Brom will be particularly worrying, especially considering the Baggies have conceded nine goals against Arsenal and Leeds in their two games since that 1-1 draw at Anfield. Liverpool have now dropped as many points this season as they did in the whole of last season and it appears a certainty that they will fail to win more than 90 points by May, increasing the chances of a much closer title race than last season.
They go into this game level on points with Manchester United – who they play next – having played the same number of games and failure to win on Monday could mean that they go into that vital fixture trailing their bitter rivals. This is the most vulnerable Liverpool have been in the league in a long time, but they are champions for a reason and will hope to bounce back against a Southampton side that has failed to win any of their last four games.
The Saints have now failed to score in their last three league games and seem to have hit a mini-slump of their own, offering Liverpool the ideal opportunity to get back on track.
Monday 8pm: Southampton v Liverpool
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Liverpool have relied heavily on Mo Salah this season and would be in a much deeper crisis without his goals. The Egyptian has scored 13 goals in the league so far – seven more than any other Liverpool player – and currently leads the Premier League Golden Boot race. Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino haven’t done enough in front of goal to propel Liverpool to the heights they have reached over the past two seasons and their combined goal total still falls short of Salah’s.
The former Player of the Year has been one of the only constants in Liverpool’s injury-disrupted season and he has been especially important on the road, scoring eight of his 13 league goals away from home. He can make the difference once more on Monday night in a huge game in Liverpool’s title charge.
Southampton’s fantastic early season form of five wins from their opening eight games saw them secure a place in the top four, but they have been in a downward spiral ever since. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have won just two of their previous eight games and now sit in 9th place in the league and are in considerable danger of dropping into the bottom half.
The Saints have drawn blanks in their last three league games and could struggle against Liverpool on Monday.
For all their injury problems, Liverpool have remained relatively resolute at the back. They have conceded just three goals in their last six league games and although they have conceded some big chances against the likes of Fulham and Spurs, they have had one of the best goalkeepers in the world bail them out of danger.
They deserve credit for their impressive defensive record in the absence of Virgil Van Dijk and will be a tough nut to crack once more at St. Mary’s.
Liverpool may boast a relatively impressive recent defensive record, but they have still coughed up a number of chances in their last six games. Tottenham spurned a number of golden opportunities in their narrow 2-1 defeat at Anfield, while Fulham battered the Liverpool goal for most of their 1-1 draw earlier in December.
Even Crystal Palace passed up several glorious chances when the game was still in the balance before Liverpool ran riot. They will almost certainly afford Southampton shooting opportunities on Monday and Danny Ings, who has averaged just under two shots a game in the league this season, is more than capable of getting two shots away at Alisson’s goal.
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