Jurgen Klopp has targeted a special end to his first season in charge of Liverpool as the Reds head to Southampton on Sunday in buoyant mood.
March has been an excellent month for Klopp’s side, who have responded positively since ending February with a League Cup final defeat on penalties against Manchester City.
Premier League wins over City and Crystal Palace have been accompanied by the sweet sensation of a Europa League last 16 victory over bitter rivals Manchester United.
It means Klopp has a European quarter-final against his former club Borussia Dortmund to look forward to in April, but first comes the task of finishing this month unbeaten.
Liverpool’s last trip to Southampton brought arguably their best away performance of the season, with a 6-1 victory in the League Cup quarter-finals in December.
Since then, Klopp’s side have struggled for consistency, but they have won their last three league matches, scoring 11 goals and conceding just once in the process.
It means that they go into the weekend in eighth place, seven points from the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot.
“Could we do something special this season? The only thing I can say is that I hope so,” Klopp said.
“We have not always been perfect over the last few weeks, but we have been more than OK. We have to carry on in this way.
“If we collect enough points, then we have to see what will happen. For now, there is only Southampton to think about, and then we have a two-week international break.”
The creative spark of Philippe Coutinho attracted plenty of attention after his excellent run and finish brought the away goal that effectively took Liverpool past United in the Europa League on Thursday.
– Commanding –
However, Dejan Lovren also deserved credit for a solid and commanding display in central defense.
Lovren has not always convinced since his move from Southampton to Liverpool in 2014, but appears to be growing in confidence under Klopp’s management.
“What can I say about Dejan Lovren? I heard about before I came here, and I saw in his eyes when I came here, that he was not in the best situation,” Klopp said.
“Sometimes for players, that’s the good thing with a complete change — that you can start really new, and that’s what he did.
“Now everybody can see what he is capable of. Dejan is in a good way.”
Left-back Alberto Moreno will be assessed before Sunday’s match, having missed the 1-1 Europa League draw at Old Trafford with a hamstring injury sustained during training the previous evening.
Southampton’s need for victory is just as great as Liverpool’s with Ronald Koeman’s side positioned one place above Klopp’s with only goal difference separating the two teams.
Victory at Stoke last time out ended a run of three successive defeats and Koeman is in no doubt his side need a repeat of they are to maintain their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Europa League.
“We knew our situation before the Stoke City game. It was a must-win game and I think the same is for this weekend, because we know the position in the table,” Koeman said.
“We know the points and if we’re still fighting for Europe I think we have to win.
“We spoke to the players about the schedule and this is the last one before the international break and, of course, if you get a win against Liverpool that makes a big step forward.”
Jose Fonte and Victor Wanyama return to the Southampton squad after suspension, but striker Jay Rodriguez will remain with the club’s under-21 side while he continues to recover from a foot injury.
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