Liverpool V Southampton
Sunday 17th August. 1:30PM. Sky Sports 1
It’s the opening weekend of the new Premier League season and Anfield will be buzzing ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Southampton.
After a pleasantly surprising campaign in 2013/14, Liverpool fans will be more optimistic than ever ahead of the new season but must first overcome a spirited Saints side who also emerged as one of the league’s surprise packages last term.
However, there has been big changes at both clubs over the summer and fans will be forgiven for not knowing what to expect in Sunday’s showdown. That should create a cracking fixture for the neutral.
Can Liverpool Cope With Loss Of Suarez?
Brendan Rodgers masterminded a phenomenal Liverpool resurrection last year as the Reds finally sustained a genuine challenge for the Premier League crown. Whilst they ultimately fell just short of the required mark, there were plenty of positives to be drawn from 2013/14 and spirits will be high around Anfield ahead of the new season.
However, if they are going to match or surpass the heights of last season then they’ll have to do it without the talismanic Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan finally made his Kop exit this summer, trading Liverpool for Barcelona. The £75 million transfer, which saw a club banned from signings buy a player banned from football activity, is a huge blow to the Merseysiders but Rodgers has at least been allowed to reinvest the bulk of that fee – primarily on players from Sunday’s opponents.
Liverpool have signed Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren from the Saints. Whilst the former is out injured, Rodgers may look to the latter pairing for an instant impact against their former club.
Rodgers has spent wisely this summer, adding a handful of other new faces to an already talented squad. They will still win the majority of games and Suarez’s departure shouldn’t end their hopes completely. However, you have to wonder where their inspiration will come from when the going gets tough.
However, the Reds coped well without the Uruguayan this time last year as he sat out the first five games through suspension and they can get their season off to a flyer here.
Depleted Saints Set For Difficult Opener
The Saints were absolutely breathtaking in 2013/14 but the new look squad may struggle to match the heights of last term and should expect a tough test at Anfield.
As well as the new Liverpool trio, Southampton lost defenders Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers whilst Jay Rodriguez still nurses the knee injury which ended his chances of playing at the World Cup. Perhaps most crucially, though, they will have to adapt to life without influential manager Mauricio Pochettino, who had worked wonders before leaving for Spurs earlier this summer.
Ronald Koeman has been chosen as the man to guide Southampton this season and the experienced Dutch manager should at least ensure they survive. However, it will be a much more difficult campaign in 2014/15 and Saints fans will have already lowered their expectations.
The former Feyenoord manager’s move to England has almost gone unnoticed thanks to his compatriot’s arrival at Old Trafford. He has began the rebuilding process by acquiring the services of a few new players. Italian striker Graziano Pelle has followed Koeman from De Kuip and the Saints will be hoping that the 29-year-old will be amongst the goals in the coming months.
Nevertheless, Koeman faces a monumental task and may have to settle for consolidation during his maiden term at St Mary’s.
A point at Anfield would be considered a monumental success.
Liverpool V Southampton Betting
Bookmaker Bet365 have priced Liverpool as the overwhelming favourites for this opening weekend clash at 4/11. The same company are offering the draw at 4/1, while the Saints can be backed at 7/1.
The Reds may have lost their biggest asset but their squad is still bursting with talented players and they should get the job done at Anfield.
Liverpool made a habit of starting games in a particularly strong fashion last term and Rodgers’ men were leading at the interval on many occasions. We expect that theme to continue onto the opening match of 2014/15.
Whilst the loss of Suarez will have a hugely detrimental impact on Liverpool’s progress, it should not be forgotten that they still performed well in his absence last year.
One of the star performers was Daniel Sturridge and the 24-year-old hit an impressive 21 league goals to finish behind only Suarez in the individual scoring charts. The Reds will be looking to the England man for inspiration this year and he is more than capable of stepping up to the mark against Southampton.