16 August 2014

Liverpool v Southampton 08.17.13

8:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
3-0 Liverpool (a) 03.01.14
0-1 Southampton (h) 09.21.13
1-3 Southampton (a) 03.16.13
1-0 Liverpool (h) 12.01.12

Last three preseason matches:
Liverpool: 4-0 Dortmund (a); 1-3 United (n); 2-0 Milan (n)
Southampton: 0-1 Leverkusen (h); 3-1 Brighton (a); 1-0 Bournemouth (a)

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Guess at a line-up:
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Johnson
Gerrard Can
Henderson Coutinho Sterling

Because of course Liverpool's first match of the season is against the club they bought three players from this summer. And it's a pretty safe bet that only one of those three players will start.

The most expensive, Adam Lallana, is out injured – as are Flanagan, Markovic, and Agger. Rickie Lambert, if he plays, will almost certainly come off the bench. Dejan Lovren is the exception, and will assuredly start, already looking like the much-needed defensive organizer after just one match (and also a set play threat, which of course doesn't hurt).

I suspect we'll see the same XI as we saw in the last preseason match against Dortmund. Yes, it was 4-2-3-1 for long stretches, the only time we've seen that formation in preseason, but it was also Liverpool's best performance. By some distance.

Enrique could come in for Manquillo, switching Johnson back to the right. Allen or Lucas could start instead of Can. Coutinho could play out wide, with or without any personnel alterations in midfield, making the formation more the 4-3-3 we saw more often in preseason. But if it ain't broke…

Meanwhile, if Southampton stick with the XI from their final preseason match, it'll be Forster; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand; Davis, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse; Tadic, Pelle, Isgrove. Boruc was in goal, but you'd think Southampton would start their new £10m keeper if he's available. Isgrove, the only unfamiliar name in that XI, is yet another academy player, a winger who was on-loan at Petersborough last Spring. Although he could be replaced by £12m (!!!) Shane Long, whose deal became official on Thursday. Southampton's other most recent signing, Romanian center back Florin Gardas, could also come in, but it seems too soon for him; Long at least has Premier League experience. Morgan Schneiderlin is technically still with Southampton, but hasn't played at all in preseason after agitating for a move to Tottenham. Or Arsenal. Or anyone who'll take him, after he watched five other teammates leave this summer.

Koeman prefers a much more counter-attacking style than his predecessor at Southampton, albeit in a similar 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 shape. Chances are, we'll see much less pressing from the front and more defensive shelling, looking to exploit any gaps Liverpool leave behind when going forward early and often.

Which is something Liverpool are going to have to get used to this season. Every single side is going to be more compact against Liverpool, especially at Anfield.

The new-look, new-style Southampton will be an excellent test for this, a decent barometer to start the season. A team that's given Liverpool problems in the past, still with some players who've given Liverpool problems in those matches, but likely playing a more defensive, counter-attacking style. Which is a style that gave Liverpool problems last season.

Game on.

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