Back to you, Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s team look to continue the tug-of-war for the top spot in the Premier League on Friday when they try to reclaim a provisional lead at St Mary’s against relegation-threatened Southampton.
Liverpool (24-7-1) were scoreboard watching Wednesday when Manchester City took back first place with a 2-0 victory over Cardiff City, moving one point ahead of the Reds with six matches remaining. The reigning champions will have a match in hand again after this weekend since they will play their FA Cup semifinal match against Brighton on Saturday, which again heaps pressure on Liverpool to claim three points in this contest.
The Reds pulled out a late, nervy 2-1 win at Anfield over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Liverpool got the kind of monumental break a side sometimes need in winning a league title as Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld knocked the ball into his own net in the 90th minute after keeper Hugo Lloris pushed it into his path instead of catching Mohamed Salah’s header towards goal.
One team’s gaffe is another’s gift, though, and the goal sent The Kop into rapture with three points so vital in their chase for a first Premier League title and first league title in 29 years.
“Whether it’s us or Man City who win the league, we’ll look back and there’ll be crucial goals and crucial wins,” the left-back, who created the opening goal for Roberto Firmino in the 2-1 victory,” left back Andy Robertson told Sky Sports.
“This will be one of them for us because it was so late on against a very good team; you think it’s going to end in a draw or even they’re going to win it, because they’re pushing forward as well. To win it, I’m sure we’ll look back and it’ll be a good three points for us.”
Robertson set up Liverpool’s other goal with a cross Roberto Firmino headed home on 16 minutes. Though Salah’s goal-scoring drought reached eight matches in all competitions and six in league play as he continues hunting out his 50th Premier League goal, the fact he was a pivotal player in the match-winner is a promising sign for Liverpool, who enter a critical portion of their schedule as they host Porto in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie Tuesday and Chelsea on Sunday in a mouth-watering top-five clash.
“We need time together, we need time to train, prepare and all that stuff – and we have that now,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website. “We don’t need a lot of time, but we need it together. We have that now and now let’s go again, recover and then fly probably to Southampton. It’s another team in a really good moment. We will fight again. That’s all that I can promise.”
Klopp does have an injury concern with centre back Virgil Van Dijk, who suffered an ankle injury in the final minutes versus Spurs. The Netherlands international and ex-Southampton defender has been a colossus in Liverpool’s back four and a key reason why the Reds have conceded a league-low 19 goals.
With Fulham and Huddersfield Town already assured of returning to the Championship, Southampton (8-9-14) are part of a six-team scrap to avoid being the third side to go down. The Saints enter this contest in 16th on 33 points, five ahead of 18th-place Cardiff City and bracketed by Brighton and Hove Albion and Burnley on goal difference.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side benefited greatly from Wednesday’s results around them as both Cardiff City and Brighton lost on Wednesday, giving the Saints essentially a free hit in this match with seven remaining.
Southampton have also shown the steel for this fight and are looking for a fourth league victory in five matches. They bookended the international break with victories, beating Spurs before and Brighton after following their 1-0 road victory Saturday.
Talisman Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s goal eight minutes after halftime separated the sides, and it appears Alex Gunn will be Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl’s No. 1 going forward as the Manchester City loanee made his fifth straight league start and posted a second clean sheet in that span.
“It was a big performance and massive win for us,” said the boss. “We had passion and patience. The goal we scored was through patience – we were waiting for this moment. They were building up, we won the ball and had a very good transition forward. It was a fantastic goal.
“I think we had a good balance – you could see in the last three weeks we were working on a new shape and I think it was good that we proved we can also play with a back four. Maybe it was a little bit surprising for the opponent.”
Southampton also have the schedule on their sides for the run-in — this is their final match against a top-six side. The Saints are 2-2-7 in such contests this year, shipping 28 of their 55 goals, but have taken seven of those eight points at St Mary’s.
Liverpool ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at Anfield in September, with the match done and dusted by the halftime whistle as Joel Matip and Salah followed Southampton defender Wesley Hoedt’s own goal with markers of their own.
The Reds are seeking their second straight league double over the Saints and carry a 454-minute shutout streak in league play versus Southampton since current Liverpool striker Sadio Mane completed his brace in the 86th minute as the Saints rallied for a 3-2 win at St Mary’s in March 2016.
Southampton are 0-1-3 versus Liverpool since a 1-0 victory at Anfield in their second-leg League Cup semifinal tie in 2017.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Southampton 0, LIVERPOOL 2.
(Trent Alexander-Arnold photo courtesy Liverpool official Twitter account)