Southampton fans will give the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane a hostile reception when Liverpool roll into town for a Premiership clash on Sunday. They are among several high-profile stars to swap St Mary’s for Anfield in big-money moves in recent years, and it really rankles the Saints supporters.
That will add spice to an already crucial game between teams that are desperately battling for points, but for entirely different reasons. Southampton are staring down the barrel of a costly relegation, while Liverpool are trying to cling onto a top-four place as Tottenham and Arsenal lurk in the rear-view mirror. It should therefore prove to be a tense clash between two highly-motivated sides.
Liverpool are the favourites, priced at 5/6 with Betfred and Betway. That makes sense as on paper the Reds are the better team, mainly because they have spent the last few years signing all of Southampton’s brightest stars. But the main danger man will not be Mane, who has regressed this season, and nor will it be Adam Lallana, who also made the switch. The key player Southampton’s defenders will have to contend with is the magnificent Mohamed Salah. Commentators are almost running out of superlatives for the Egyptian, who has blazed a trail of destruction through the Premier League since signing from Roma in the summer.
How Chelsea must regret letting him go. They could have Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku alongside Eden Hazard now, but Jose Mourinho sold the lot in favour of instant gratification. Their loss is Liverpool’s, Man City’s and Man Utd’s gain, and were it not for the exquisite form of De Bruyne for runaway league leaders Man City, Salah would be nailed on for Player of the Year. He has scored a goal every 93 minutes this season.
That is the best record in the league, ahead of even Harry Kane. Salah trails the Tottenham striker by a single goal in the race to win the Golden Boot, but has played fewer games than Kane. His achievement is even more remarkable when you remember that Salah is not a central striker and operates in wide areas. But he has a devastating combination of pace, intelligence, movement and lethal finishing, and that has allowed him to terrorise defenders and bang in 21 league goals this season.
Salah to score at any time in this game looks a great price at 5/4 with Unibet and 888 Sport, and 11/10 with various others. Liverpool to win at 5/6 also looks really good. They are an inconsistent side, as they showed by recently losing to Swansea, and they miss Philippe Coutinho, but they are a far better team than Southampton and really should be taking all three points on Sunday.
Last season these teams drew twice in the league, and Southampton knocked Liverpool out of the EFL Cup in the semi-final, so some punters will be enticed by the odds on opposing a Liverpool win. It is worth noting that the Saints are unbeaten in their last six games, having recorded three wins and three draws. The draw is 31/10 with Betfair and 3/1 with Bet Victor in this game, and that looks interesting because Southampton have drawn the second most games in the league this season.
A Southampton win is 37/10 with Marathon Bet and 7/2 with various others, and Mauricio Pellegrino’s men could capitalise if Liverpool have one eye on their midweek Champions League game against Porto. But this is not a game Jurgen Klopp can afford to take lightly as the battle for a top four finish is intensifying, and he has a great opportunity to take advantage of Tottenham and Arsenal playing one another on Saturday, so a Liverpool win looks a good option in this game.