Lambert and Lovren in line for Liverpool bows against Saints
If you didn’t sign someone from the talented Southampton team of last term this summer then, unless you’re champions Manchester City or Chelsea, conventional wisdom says you won’t feature in the title race. Luckily, Liverpool rated the Saints stars so highly, they poached three players.
Adam Lallana is somewhat fortunate. Injury means he won’t face the music of dejected jeers from travelling fans to Anfield; however, new Reds striker Rickie Lambert is charged with getting goals against his former club here. Odds of 5/4 from Coral say he scores against Southampton anytime.
Meanwhile, £20m Croatia defender Dejan Lovren is trying to keep some old Saints teammates and a few new names out. Liverpool are 11/10 to come through their opening Premier League game with a clean sheet intact, and 11/8 for a win to nil, which is far better value than the odds-on 4/11 price on a straight home victory.
Opposite Reds boss Brendan Rodgers on the touchline will be Dutch coach Ronald Koeman, making his managerial debut in English football. He took the Southampton job knowing which way the wind was blowing and, although we bandied words like exodus about to describe it, the former Feneyoord chief will instead see this as an opportunity.
Koeman has seized the chance to put his own stamp on the Saints, following the exits of predecessor Mauricio Pochettino and the south coast club’s star turns. If ever an opening weekend fixture was a free hit, then this is surely it for Southampton.
They are expected to lose and are 8/1 outsiders for victory, though did win at Anfield last term courtesy of Lovren. A repeat 1-0 scoreline for the Saints is a massive 25/1. Striker Shane Long, a £12m signing from Hull City, and Romanian defender Florin Gardos were captured by Koeman in the run-up to this game, so it would be asking too much for them gel so soon.
Don’t discount Long, who has previous for scoring debut goals on the opening weekend, though. In a West Brom shirt, he capped his bow by levelling things up by being on target against the mighty Manchester United in 2011/12. Tasty odds of 4/1 say Long nets anytime at Anfield.
Getting past fellow summer signing Graziano Pelle, who has played his best football and produced his finest form under Koeman, may be difficult for Republic of Ireland striker Long, however. The Italian forward is 11/4 to get a goal on his debut.
A hamstring problem means Gardos is not in contention for this game, so Koeman will have to largely rely on continuity in defence. Goalie Fraser Forster and left back Ryan Bertrand should make bows, however, but it’s a massive 8/1 that Southampton shut their hosts out.
Wantaway anchorman Morgan Schneiderlin has had his head turned by reported interest from Tottenham and old coach Pochettino, but looks set to the only familiar face in a new-look midfield. The France World Cup player has a goal against Liverpool on his CV, and is 8/1 to net again.
Inter Milan loanee and Algeria international Saphir Taider should provide box-to-box threat (11/2 to score) for the Saints, while out wide Serbia winger Dusan Tadic (7/2) will be looking to impress. Liverpool counterpart and compatriot Lazar Markovic is missing, however, through injury, joining Jon Flanagan and Daniel Agger on the sidelines.
No coverage touching on Liverpool would be complete without the obligatory mention of Luis Suarez’s departure. Strike partner Daniel Sturridge is expected to bear the brunt of the burden, but has never scored against Southampton. He’s odds-on to change that at 8/11.
Expect more from creative force Philippe Coutinho (2/1), especially with new Brazil boss Dunga about to name his first squad, and winger Raheem Sterling (6/5). Both players have netted against the Saints in the last three meetings. Total goals being over 3.5 in this encounter looks like an appealing shout at 13/8.