Inside Track: Saints vs Liverpool

By SFC Media Thu 08 Feb Saints v Liverpool
Photo by Matt Watson

Liverpool Echo journalist James Pearce gives us the lowdown on the Reds, ahead of their trip to St Mary's on Sunday...

How would you sum up Liverpool's season so far?

It's been eventful. Going forward, they have been a joy to watch. Mohamed Salah has exceeded all expectations and broken a host of records, while Roberto Firmino has taken his game to the next level. However, defensive issues have hampered them at times.

Fans' delight at shattering their transfer record to sign Virgil van Dijk in January was quickly tempered by the sight of Philippe Coutinho leaving for Barcelona. Not replacing him during the winter window was a big gamble by Jürgen Klopp.

The domestic cups were a big disappointment, especially the FA Cup exit at home to West Brom, but Liverpool qualified from their Champions League group in style and sit third in the Premier League, so there's plenty left to play for.

The next few weeks will go a long way to defining the club's season. They have Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League and some key battles in the race for a top-four finish.

What’s been the impact/upshot of last week’s dramatic 2-2 draw with Spurs?

Liverpool felt like they had been robbed by those controversial decisions which enabled Spurs to secure a share of the spoils. There was a lot of anger in the dressing room.

The way Liverpool faded in that second half is also a concern, as energy levels looked very low. It's no surprise that Klopp gave them some time off this week.

Chelsea losing to Watford on Monday night eased the Reds' frustration after those two points slipped away deep into stoppage time.

With a win over Huddersfield and that draw with the Londoners, Klopp's men look to have put their January blip – when they suffered back-to-back defeats to Swansea and West Brom – behind them.

James Ward-Prowse against Liverpool at Anfield in November

Who will be Liverpool's key men on Sunday?

How van Dijk handles going back to St Mary's will be crucial. He's clearly still building up his fitness after missing so much football over the past 12 months, but he was excellent against Spurs, and Liverpool will need him at that level again. He's likely to have another former Saints defender alongside him in Dejan Lovren.

If they can keep their old club out then the likes of Salah and Firmino should do some damage at the other end.

One current concern for the Reds is the form of Sadio Mané. He looks short of confidence and it will be interesting to see whether Klopp opts to stick with him or give him a breather. He could recall Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

What part will Liverpool play in this year's race for a Champions League spot, or indeed a trophy?

Liverpool are in the thick of that race for the Champions League spots. With fifth-placed Spurs just two points behind, there's little margin for error.

If they perform to their maximum, there's no reason why Liverpool can't catch Manchester United and finish second to Man City. Klopp says a top-four finish would make this season a success, but the fans are also craving an extended run in the Champions League.

It's been nine years since the Reds competed in the knockout stages. They have got a reasonably kind draw with Porto and if they get past them anything could happen. Those European nights are special and few clubs will fancy going to Anfield.

Related

Stat Pack: Saints vs Liverpool