vs Liverpool Preview: Staying in the mix at the top
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Southampton will ring in the new year by welcoming defending champions and league leaders Liverpool to St. Mary’s Stadium on Monday night.

The Reds will be eager to win to pull away from Manchester United again, but Southampton have the chance to shoot right back into the top four conversation with three points.

Saints have seen a slight dip in form in recent weeks and are without a win in their last four games, scoring just one goal in the process.

After having gone temporarily top of the league in November, Southampton have won only two games, with just one of those coming at home.

Liverpool themselves come into this clash on the back of a largely imperfect run of results, with back-to-back draws against West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United.

Jurgen Klopp has been made to rue poor form away from home with just two wins in eight league games on the road, and his side will be provided another stern test when they arrive on the south coast.

Those results have allowed rivals United and Manchester City back into the title race and the Reds will be out to regain a sense of confidence and control in the title race as the season nears its halfway point.

Team News

The biggest piece of team news for the home side is that Hasenhuttl will take his place on the touchline after undergoing a period of self-isolation.

The Austrian has been able to pick a consistent starting XI for much of the season, but two key men in Jannik Vestergaard and Nathan Redmond will again be missing due to injury.

Liverpool’s injury issues are well-documented, with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all out of contention at centre-back as well as Kostas Tsimikas, Naby Keita and Diogo Jota.

But in a big boost, Klopp could welcome Thiago Alcantara into the starting line-up for just the second time after he played 17 minutes off the bench against Newcastle.

A chance for goals to return

Taking into account all of Liverpool’s personnel issues at the back, this looms as a fantastic opportunity for Southampton to rediscover their goalscoring form.

Talisman Danny Ings is stranded on six Premier League goals having not scored in his last five games since returning to the starting line-up after injury.

Whether or not fatigue has been at play through the packed December schedule is another question, but the potency in the Southampton attack that was seen throughout the earlier parts of the season seems to have left.

Theo Walcott and Che Adams have linked up well and held up the attacking burden in Ings’ absence, but they still only have six goals between them.

With at least one of the inexperienced Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips set to line up at centre back for Liverpool, Hasenhuttl will ensure his players are ready to get on the front foot and look to expose the Reds’ youngsters.

Home vs away success

Southampton have been notoriously generous in handing out points to visiting opposition in recent seasons, and after winning three on the bounce at St. Mary’s through October and November they have succumbed to just one victory in their last four fixtures at home.

And on the flip side, Liverpool have just the 11th best away record in the league and have been plagued with draws against opposition they should be expecting to beat.

The winner in this game will look to turn a corner and continue on an upward trend of points-collecting in this highly competitive Premier League campaign.

After this game, Southampton’s next four home games come against Arsenal, Aston Villa, Wolves and Chelsea, so a positive result on Monday night could do them the world of good ahead of what could be a season-defining stretch through to the end of February.

If ever there was a time to play Liverpool at home, it’s going to be this time. If Southampton can demonstrate some of their form of earlier in the season and get their front men involved early, they could be in with a chance of registering a big result.