Big Match Focus: Southampton vs Liverpool

Liverpool's title charge sees it visit a Southampton side showing promising signs of recovery under Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Liverpool won 3-0 against Southampton earlier in the season.   -  Getty Images

Liverpool has just six games to go in its quest for a first top-flight title in 29 years, the first of which comes against Southampton on Friday.

Jurgen Klopp's side battled to a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, with an error from Hugo Lloris causing an own goal from Toby Alderweireld in the 90th minute at Anfield that handed it all three points.

With Manchester City a point clear at the top after beating Cardiff City 2-0 on Wednesday, Liverpool knows it can ill afford any slip-ups if it is to finish above Pep Guardiola's reigning champion.

While it is expected to earn another win, given it has lost only one league game all season, Southampton represents a far sterner test under Ralph Hasenhuttl than it did when it lost 3-0 in the reverse fixture in September.

LIVERPOOL SEEKING CLUB RECORD AGAINST BLUNT SAINTS

The omens are not too good for Southampton; it has failed to even score in its last five top-flight meetings with Liverpool, which has yielded two draws and three defeats.

In fact, the Reds are looking to beat Saints for the fourth time in a row in the Premier League for the first time in the club's history.

When you consider Liverpool has only let in nine goals in 16 away league games this season, the joint-fewest along with City, things start to look a little tricky for Hasenhuttl's side at St Mary's Stadium.

This could even be a chance for Mohamed Salah to end his run of eight matches without a goal. He is on his worst barren run since he went scoreless in 10 games for Roma between November 2015 and January 2016.

FORM GUIDE

Since a run of four draws in six games saw it slip behind City, Liverpool has been more like its usual self, winning its last three fixtures in a row.

While its defence has been redoubtable - its 2-1 loss to City in January is the only time it has conceded more than a single goal in an away league game this term - Klopp's side have only failed to score in the top flight twice since October.

Southampton is on the rise, though. It is looking to win three games in a row for the first time since May 2016, having beaten Tottenham and Brighton and Hove Albion since losing narrowly to Manchester United.

It has sharpened up defensively, too, conceding more than one goal in a home league outing only once in 2019, when Cardiff claimed a 2-1 victory on the south coast in February.

HEAD TO HEAD (James Ward-Prowse vs Georginio Wijnaldum)

While Klopp continues to tinker with his midfield options - mostly leaving the expensive talents of Naby Keita and Fabinho on the bench - Georginio Wijnaldum has maintained his importance.

The Netherlands international has made 29 league appearances this season and, while he only has two goals and no assists, his passing accuracy of 91 per cent, 31 tackles and 220 duels contested underline his impact in the side.

He will come up against an in-form James Ward-Prowse. Saints' free-kick expert has scored six times this season, most recently against Spurs in March, to help drag his side away from the drop.

While he does not match Wijnaldum's passing or tackle rates, Ward-Prowse is better in terms of chances created (34 to 22), interceptions (17 to 15) and dribbles (22 to 11), while he has covered more ground and made more sprints per match on average.

HISTORY SAYS...

Friday is a good day for Liverpool. It has won five of its last six league games playing on this day, since losing 4-2 at Arsenal in April 2004.

However, while its recent record against Liverpool is not ideal, Saints have won five of their 10 Premier League meetings with them at St Mary's. In fact, the only team they have beaten more often at the ground in the competition is Everton (six).

The two managers have only met once before, in a DFB-Pokal match in October 2012, when Klopp's Borussia Dortmund beat Hasenhuttl's Aalen 4-1.