WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) previews the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final between Southampton and Liverpool. The Reds stuttered at St Mary's in November but Saints no longer look as good at the back so is an away win on the cards?
Southampton v Liverpool | Wednesday 19:45 | Sky Sports 1
The probability of a north-west derby between Liverpool and Manchester United at Wembley in the EFL Cup final looks high. At time of writing, the best price you can get on the To Qualify double is 11/20 with Stan James.
Liverpool made a meal of their tie with Plymouth on Sunday and had to bring on Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana late on to try and win the game but it ended goalless. It means that Liverpool won’t have a midweek off for the whole of January now.
As for Southampton, they travelled to Norwich and a late Stephen Naismith equaliser means they must also play a second leg. However, Claude Puel fielded many more experienced players than Jürgen Klopp did.
Ryan Bertrand, Shane Long, Dusan Tadic, Virgil van Dijk, James Ward Prowse and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are all regulars in the first team and started, whilst Nathan Redmond and Jay Rodriguez both came off the bench.
It was a sign of intent from Puel who has come under pressure from a Saints fan base that’s largely unhappy at present. The seaside club have recorded just two wins in their last nine in all competitions.
That poor run has seen Southampton get knocked out of the Europa League, lose 3-0 to stragglers Crystal Palace and lose their last three consecutive Premier League games, including a home tie against West Brom.
In fact, Saints have conceded in all of their last four Premier League matches and leaked nine in their last three. It’s not what we’ve come to expect from this usually solid team.
The leader of that defence, Virgil van Dijk, could be struggling of late due to the uncertainty of his future at the club, with big names all linked with the Dutchman.
Southampton held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw back in November. Roberto Firmino missing a gilt-edged chance to win the game. That was a tie which showcased Southampton’s defensive strength but that’s since gone a-miss.
Furthermore, Saints played no part in that game from an attacking point of view, despite having arguably their strongest front three of Charlie Austin, Sofiane Boufal and Nathan Redmond out on the pitch. These signs therefore don’t bode too well for Saints on Wednesday night.
The Reds also travelled to St Mary’s in this competition last season at the quarter-finals stage. They won that game 6-1 thanks to an early brace from Daniel Sturridge and a fine hatrick from Divock Origi. However, it’s the former who’s more likely to start this tie after the Belgian toiled against lowly Plymouth last weekend.
Value on the Redmen
Sturridge entered the fray just after the hour on Sunday and had an immediate impact, making runs and carrying the ball when his teammates looked out of ideas. He’s still a player with plenty to offer should he stay fit and I think Klopp will try to exploit that whenever possible.
Philippe Coutinho could even return from injury in this tie if required and if he does it’s a full strength side for the Redmen.
Back in November they should have won comfortably, poor finishing and the absence of a recognised striker in the starting line-up being the culprits for that failing. They should dominate the game again and this time around I think Liverpool are a good price to take a lead back to Anfield for the second leg at 5/4 with Betfair.
Southampton v Liverpool – Liverpool to win (5/4 Betfair)