Liverpool bring a host of ex-Southampton players to St Mary's this weekend, and Kevin Hatchard believes they'll succeed against their old employers...
"Liverpool have been generally excellent away to teams in the bottom half this season, while Saints have struggled to score goals at home."
Southampton v Liverpool
Sunday February 11, 16:30 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Saints on the up, but still in trouble
After an uncomfortable 12-game spell without a Premier League victory, Southampton are breathing a little easier after their 3-2 win at West Brom, but only a little. Saints are still very much in the relegation mix, and ahead of this clash with his former club, manager Mauricio Pellegrino is still under pressure.
That said, there is a genuine feeling on the south coast that Saints are on an upward curve. They have gone six games unbeaten in all competitions, and Pellegrino says the drug known as self-belief is being freely used by his players (don't write in - there isn't a real drug called self-belief).
However, the club's home form is still a nagging concern. Saints have won just one of their last seven home games in all competitions, and in the Premier League they've taken maximum points from just one of the last eight contests in front of their own fans. They haven't scored more than once in a Premier League home match since November, and they have only won three times in the league at St Mary's.
There are no fresh injuries for Pellegrino. Striker Charlie Austin is still on the sidelines.
Van Dijk the focus on his return to St Mary's
Virgil van Dijk is getting used to being the centre of attention. Last weekend the Liverpool centre-back hung out a leg and conceded a crucial penalty, which gave Tottenham the chance to avoid what could have been a crushing blow in the race for the top four. This weekend, the imposing Dutchman returns to a club still angry with the way he pushed his way out of St Mary's. Of course, the path from Southampton to Liverpool is a well-worn one, and although Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has attempted to defuse the tension with a few jokes, it'll take more than that to wipe away the enmity of Saints fans. In addition to van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane are all ex-Southampton players who could face their former club on Sunday afternoon.
Liverpool are approaching the most critical part of their season, with the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Porto on the horizon. Having insisted there was no need to immediately replace the departed Philippe Coutinho, Klopp must show his squad is strong enough to fight on two fronts.
Liverpool's recent Premier League form is outstanding. Opta tell us they have lost just one of their last 17 league games, winning 11 and drawing five. Klopp has now won 49 of his 94 PL games, and if he wins on Sunday, he'll be the ninth-fastest Premier League manager to rack up a half-century of victories.
Lallana is expected to play at some stage, despite his meltdown in an Under-23 game against Spurs. The England midfielder grabbed Tottenham's George Marsh by the neck and was sent off - Klopp was far from impressed, but hasn't banned Lallana from first-team action. Joe Gomez seems likely to miss out with a knee problem, while Ragnar Klavan has returned to training after a muscle complaint.
Liverpool are priced at [1.85] for the win here, and I think that makes sense. They have won seven of their 13 away games, and apart from the debacle at Swansea, they have performed well away to teams in the bottom half. They have won at Bournemouth, Stoke, Huddersfield, Brighton and West Ham.
Southampton are slowly improving, but they were swept aside 3-0 at Anfield, and they still don't score enough goals. If Liverpool pick a strong side and hit top gear, they should have no problems here.
Under 2.5 Goals is trading at [2.26], and while that's always a dangerous prospect when Liverpool are involved, there's an argument to be made. Saints haven't scored against Liverpool in the clubs' last three meetings, and six of their last nine PL home games have featured fewer than three goals. For all the talk of Liverpool's defensive weakness, they have only leaked seven goals in their last eight Premier League away matches.
As someone who is a fully paid-up member of the Roberto Firmino Appreciation Society, even I've been surprised at how well the Brazilian has adapted to his new role as a centre-forward. He has a great knack of finding the right positions in the box time and time again, and that's why he has scored six goals in his last ten Premier League appearances.
At [2.52] to score in 90 minutes, he looks an attractive bet.
Kevin Hatchard 2017-18 English Football P/L
Points Staked: 42
Points Returned: 60.36
P/L: +18.36 points