Overachieving was a theme for both Liverpool and Southampton in their last campaigns, but each side has been active in this summer’s transfer market. While Southampton has off-loaded several players from last year’s extremely talented squad, Liverpool has sold Luis Suarez, but made an extensive amount of purchases to increase depth ahead of its first Champions League campaign since the turn of the decade.
The Reds signed three Southampton players, including Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, and Dejan Lovren, over the summer, though only one of the triumvirate is likely to start in Sunday’s clash at Anfield. Lambert is likely seen as more of Plan B for manager Brendan Rodgers, and Lallana is out injured. Lovren should start at the back with Martin Skrtel, as the pair blanked Borussia Dortmund in its first start together last weekend. A goal and assist, not to mention his strong display of leadership, highlighted the Croatian’s display. Glen Johnson and Javier Manquillo will join the two center backs, unless Rodgers feels left back Alberto Moreno fits into the system after less than a week with the club. Moreno’s presence in the team would push Johnson to right back.
Rodgers is likely to play a hybrid between a diamond 4-4-2 and 4-3-3, with a lone striker. To start the team’s trip to the US, the Reds held a rigid 4-3-3, with a triangle midfield anchored by Steven Gerrard, who was assisted by two shuttlers. Emre Can and Jordan Henderson are expected to take on those roles in the opener. On the flanks, Coutinho and Raheem Sterling ran the show, while Lambert featured as a lone striker. However, Daniel Sturridge adds a wrinkle to the team’s game plan, and is expected to be supported closely by Sterling and Coutinho, who will pinch inside, while the other pushes further up in a more attacking role. An attacking pair of full backs will give the home side width.
Southampton is likely to combat its opponents with a 4-3-3 of its own. New gaffer, Ronald Koeman, has said that he sees this as a squad that fits the 4-3-3, which he used in preseason. Koeman is certain to start new signing Graziano Pelle as a center forward. Dusan Tadic and either Lloyd Isgrove, who was energetic in preseason, or Gaston Ramirez will flank Pelle with Jay Rodriguez still recovering injury.
If Morgan Schneiderlin’s “strike” continues, despite the Frenchman being threatened by a fine of two week’s wages if he refuses to take the pitch on Sunday, Victor Wanyama should anchor the center of midfield. James Ward-Prowse will surely have a place in the squad after a strong preseason and Steven Davis should round out the trio.
At the back, Nathaniel Clyne will hope to build on his impressive performances last season with marauding runs down his flank. Jose Fonte should partner Maya Yoshida in the middle, unless Koeman feels his Thursday signing, Florin Gardos, is prepared to slide into the squad. Loan signing Ryan Bertrand should get the call at left back. Fraser Forster was signed this week and is likely to replace last year’s No. 1, Artur Boruc.
The tactical battle should be interesting as both teams play attack-minded football that could lead to exciting opening to the campaigns of both outfits.