SOUTHAMPTON lead 1-0 after the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final against Liverpool. Can the Saints secure a place at Wembley on Wednesday night?
Liverpool v Southampton | Wednesday 19:45 | Sky Sports
If they handed out league titles and trophies before Christmas, Liverpool would have been strong contenders to sweep the board this season.
Jurgen Klopp's men were in sensational form and when they hammered Watford 6-1 at Anfield back in November, it looked as if the men from Merseyside were going to take some stopping.
New Year struggles
Recent times, though, have not been so rosy for the Reds and 2017 has not started well for Klopp's charges.
Indeed, Liverpool's only win of the year so far came in the FA Cup, with the Premier League side squeezing past Plymouth of League Two at the second time of asking in a third round replay.
A 1-0 defeat against Southampton at St Mary's in the first-leg of this EFL Cup semi-final tie means that Liverpool have it all to do when they play host to Claude Puel's charges in the return leg at Anfield – but Saints will fancy their chances of making it through to the final.
Saints eyeing a scalp
Puel's men have already claimed a significant scalp in the competition, having beaten Arsenal in north London in the quarter-finals, while Sunday’s thumping 3-0 win against Leicester should ensure that the Saints are not short of confidence.
Liverpool have failed to find the net in both of their previous matches against Southampton so far this season and, while Puel's team have a decidedly ropey record on the road, the stubborn Saints can give Klopp's charges a real headache here.
Saints to march on to Wembley
Liverpool's swagger in attack has been noticeably diminished by Sadio Mane's sojourn to the African Cup of Nations, while the concession of three goals against Swansea on Saturday, too, highlights that the Reds' defensive unit remains frighteningly fragile.
Given that a draw would be enough to see Saints into their first League Cup final since 1979 and that there was just one goal scored in the previous two ties between the teams this season, there is a temptation to back fewer than three goals in this game.
Instead, though, I'm willing to side with the Saints at 7/4 (Bet365) in the double chance market; with just one win in six and a crucial FA Cup tie against Wolves coming up on Saturday, Liverpool are too skinny and Puel's men are in prime position to be beneficiaries if the Reds' dip in form continues.
Liverpool v Southampton – Southampton double chance (7/4 Bet365)