Ahead of Sunday’s trip to face Southampton at St Mary’s, we took the time to catch up with Saints fan Chris Hughes, who is Site Expert for Saints Marching to see how he sees the game going. Chris also had his say on how sees the season going for each club and the thorny subject of Virgil Van Dijk.
Here’s what he had to say…
1) How do you see the game going on Sunday?
It’s difficult to say – we’re six games unbeaten and on a really nice run of form by our standards so hopefully we’ll go into the game full of confidence – but at the same time Liverpool comprehensively tore us apart last time and that could easily happen again this time around. I’d like to think we could snatch a goal and that we’d give the game a real go but unless I’m mistaken we haven’t beaten one of ‘big six’ in the league since April 2016 and that’s less than likely to change this Sunday.
2) Care to predict a scoreline?
I don’t see it being a bloodbath because aside from the loss to Tottenham on Boxing Day we seem to have been able to keep most top teams at bay – therefore I’m going for 2-1 Liverpool.
3) How do you feel about Virgil Van Dijk? Is he worth the money? What sort of reception will you give him?
It’s a difficult one – despite returning to the first team for us for a bit you’ve got to remember he spent the majority of 2017 on the sidelines for whatever reason (injury, dropped from squad, etc). Therefore I think it’s going to take a bit of time for him to bed in. Irregardless of ability £75 million remains a serious amount of money for a centre-back and unless he reaches a Sergio Ramos/Giorgio Chiellini level for the Reds it’s going to be difficult to consider him ‘worth the money’.
In terms of a reception I think a solid portion of the fanbase will appreciate that he was potentially one of the best centre-backs we’ve ever had – at the same time however the manner in which he approached his desire to leave will definitely result in some boo boys. Couple that with the fact that some supporters will heckle any former player and I’d expect a negative reception all in all.
4) Which of our players do you fear the most and which of your players should we be worried about?
Liverpool have some amazing players up and down the pitch – Firmino links everything together, the Ox seems to have hit the ground running too but it has to be Mohamed Salah. He was incredible against us in the reverse fixture and his form hasn’t hit a blip yet either. I expect him to be a handful for the full 90.
In terms of our dangerman, It’s difficult to say. James Ward-Prowse is in a rich vein of form at the moment with four goals in his last five and seems full of confidence – but your defence should definitely keep tabs on Guido Carrillo if he starts. The Argentine has shown some real promise so far and with Liverpool’s defence looking a little shaky, he could definitely cause some trouble with his aerial ability and near-post runs.
5) We’ve signed several players from you in recent times, how do you feel about this?
Personally it’s a bit annoying. With all respect to Liverpool it’s a been a while since you’ve won a major trophy and you aren’t on Manchester City’s financial level meaning it’s difficult to see a super obvious reason why so many Saints players go there. Opinion regarding our status as a ‘feeder club’ splits the crowd but I know personally I’d be a lot happier if our players were going to a bigger spread of the league’s top clubs.
6) How has your season been going? Hopes/expectations for the rest of the campaign?
It’s been a tricky one to say the least. Going into the game with WBA this past weekend we knew that if we lost we’d go bottom of the table which is downright shocking looking at our team. We’re obviously clear of the relegation zone now but we have some tough games coming up meaning we’re still very much in the scrap. I think this is partly Pellegrino’s fault but also a lot of responsibility has to fall on Les Reed for a real lack of recruitment both in January and last summer.
7) What do you think of Mauricio Pellegrino and Jurgen Klopp?
I want to like Pellegrino, I really do, but it’s hard. He seems very tactically naive and scared to make big decisions or push forward – a clear example of this was when we were 1-0 and cruising against Watford in the FA Cup and he chose to take off our best attacking player in Sofiane Boufal and replace him with a centre-back. He continues to trust out-of-form players whilst those who are enjoying good runs regularly get dropped, rotated or subbed.
My opinion on Klopp might not get the best reception on a Liverpool fan site but I think the clock should really be ticking for him. I’m all for clubs sticking with managers rather than making knee-jerk decisions every summer but three years into managing the Reds he’s without a trophy or obvious improvement. The actual squad is perhaps the most talented it’s been in a while but that’s not an excuse for a lack of title challenge. With that being said I’m a massive fan of his use of the club’s young talent and I do think he’s an excellent man-manager.
8) Where will the two teams finish this season?
I predict that Liverpool will finish fourth. I think Chelsea will finish outside of the Champions League places but I think one of the North London clubs will snatch third narrowly. I liked Arsenal’s business in January but they have a lot more points to make up for, so it’s difficult. Either way it’s going to be tight and will likely go down to the last day.
As for Southampton, we’re currently 15th and I think that’s probably around where we’ll finish. We might get to the top of this pile of teams all separated by a point or two but as I’ve said earlier, we have some tough games still to come including City on the last day. I do think we’ll stay up, regardless.