Preview: Liverpool vs. Southampton

Nathan Jones faces a baptism of fire in his first game in charge of Southampton, who meet Liverpool at Anfield for Saturday’s final round of Premier League matches before the World Cup.

Both sides progressed in the EFL Cup on penalties in midweek, with the Reds seeing off Derby County, while the Saints got the better of Sheffield Wednesday.

Not for the first time in the EFL Cup and probably not for the last time, Caoimhin Kelleher was Liverpool’s saviour from the spot as a youthful Reds side edged past League One’s Derby on penalties after a 0-0 draw in Wednesday’s third-round battle.

Jurgen Klopp’s side may have missed twice from 12 yards themselves, but Kelleher kept out three spot kicks before Harvey Elliott scored the decisive penalty to keep Liverpool’s dreams of back-to-back EFL Cup crowns alive.

Liverpool are seemingly set to enter the World Cup break on a high note, having also put Napoli and Tottenham Hotspur to the sword since the start of November – with Mohamed Salah netting a brace versus the North London club last weekend before Harry Kane’s consolation.

Despite ending their two-game losing run in the top flight at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Liverpool remain outsiders when it comes to the fight for a European place – currently lying in eighth in the table and seven points adrift of the Champions League places, albeit with a game in hand on some of the teams above them.

Liverpool now have the chance to win four successive matches for the first time all season, and keeping Derby at bay made it five clean sheets from their last six games at Anfield in all competitions – the exception being that 2-1 loss to Leeds United.

Of course, once Liverpool lost one Premier League game at Anfield in the 2020-21 season, they went on to suffer a whopping six defeats on the bounce at home, and the new manager bounce cannot come quickly enough for Southampton here.

From threatening the unlikeliest of promotion charges with Luton Town to earning his big Premier League contract with Southampton, Nathan Jones will inherit a group of players in desperate need of some motivation following the sacking of Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Jones’s appointment was confirmed on Thursday morning, as the 49-year-old penned a deal at St Mary’s until 2026 after the South Coast side edged past Sheffield Wednesday on penalties in the EFL Cup, having played out a 1-1 draw with Darren Moore’s side in normal time.

Prior to his departure, Hasenhuttl’s final Premier League game in charge of Southampton ended in a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of high-flying Newcastle United, and the visitors to Anfield occupy a spot in the relegation zone as a result – just one point behind Bournemouth in 17th.

While Liverpool have performed relatively well on the defensive front at home recently, Southampton have only scored one goal in their last five Premier League away games, and defeat would consign the Saints to a place in the relegation zone at Christmas for the first time since 2004-05, when they were eventually demoted.
Liverpool did the double over Southampton by an aggregate scoreline of 6-1 last season and have won each of their last five at Anfield against the Saints without conceding, so any hopes of a fast start for Jones’s time in charge of the visitors are wafer-thin indeed.

Liverpool Premier League form:
Liverpool form (all competitions):
Southampton Premier League form:
Southampton form (all competitions):

We say: Liverpool 2-0 Southampton
A change in manager is unlikely to count for much for Southampton at Anfield, with Liverpool set to enter the World Cup break on a high note as they recall all of their well-rested big-hitters.

Finding the back of the net away from home has not been Southampton’s forte in recent weeks, and we can only envisage Klopp’s crop storming to victory in front of their own fans.

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