EFL Cup: Liverpool v Southampton Preview

Roberto FirminoLiverpool need to overturn a narrow first-leg deficit when they face Southampton in the EFL Cup semi-finals this midweek (8pm Wednesday, Sky Sports 1).

The Reds were defeated 1-0 on their recent trip to St Marys, Nathan Redmond’s strike in the first half securing the lead for Saints at the halfway stage of the tie. It was a disappointing performance from Jurgen Klopp’s men. In truth, the visitors to the south coast could easily have lost by a larger margin.

The former Borussia Dortmund boss will be concerned that Saturday’s shock 3-2 defeat by Swansea City means his side have won only one of their last six encounters in all competitions. A major improvement will be necessary if Liverpool are to advance to the Wembley final ahead of Southampton, but the Reds’ fans will still be confident that their team can win the trophy for the ninth time in the club’s history this year.

Southampton, conversely, have never triumphed in this competition, with a 3-2 loss to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest outfit in the 1979 final the closest they have come to League Cup glory. Their first leg victory over Liverpool, together with Sunday’s 3-0 success against Premier League champions Leicester City, suggests that Claude Puel’s charges may have turned a corner, although it is worth noting that they have lost four of their last six meetings against Premier League opposition. Southampton are generally a defensively solid proposition, though, and Liverpool will find things difficult if they approach this game with a complacent mindset.

Jordan Henderson, who has been suffering with a foot problem, will require a late fitness test ahead of Wednesday night’s clash at Anfield, but Senegal international Sadio Mane remains at the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. Elsewhere, Marko Grujic (hamstring), Danny Ings (knee) and Adam Bogdan (knee) are all sidelined, but Joel Matip and Philippe Coutinho have recovered from their own injury concerns and should start against Saints.

Jurgen Klopp has employed a 4-3-3 for almost the entirety of the campaign up to now and will not implement a change of shape regardless of his team’s shaky form at present. That means Roberto Firmino (pictured), Adam Lallana and Coutinho will continue in the front three, with Emre Can and Gigi Wijnaldum either side of Henderson – presuming the captain is passed fit – in the engine room.

Southampton should have Virgil van Dijk available for selection after an ankle injury, while Steven Davis is hoping to shake off a knock in time to feature. Sofiane Boufal (knee), Charlie Austin (shoulder), Joel Pied (knee), Alex McCarthy (hamstring), Matt Targett (hamstring) and Jake Hesketh (ankle) will all definitely miss out. Jose Fonte has recently swapped St Marys for the London Stadium and West Ham United. Puel has settled on a 4-3-3 formation in the last few weeks and is unlikely to make any change to his side’s formation here, with Dusan Tadic, Redmond and Jay Rodriguez set to continue up top.

Despite their struggles of late, this preview believes that it is worth backing Liverpool to progress to the final of the EFL Cup for the second year in a row. The Reds have encountered defensive difficulties all season but still possess enough attacking firepower to outscore their upcoming opponents, who have also had some tough moments in the last few weeks.

This will be another tight match between two teams who are both desperate to reach next month’s final, but home advantage could be enough for Liverpool to advance at Southampton’s expense. Both managers will fancy their respective side’s chances of finding the net, however, while Firmino would be a sensible choice in the anytime goalscorer market.

So when it comes to the betting tips, go with Liverpool to win and both teams to score (best price 12/5 with Paddy Power) and Roberto Firmino to score anytime (13/8 with Sky Bet).

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