Title challengers Liverpool travel to the south coast for Friday night’s Premier League meeting with a Southampton side revitalised under manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

The former RB Leipzig boss replaced Mark Hughes in December with the club in the relegation zone, but has steered the Saints five points clear of the bottom three.

The Austrian’s side have won three of their last four matches and head into Friday’s fixture buoyed by a 1-0 away victory over Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend.

So, what can we expect from Southampton at St Mary’s tonight?

We caught up with chief sports writer at the Southern Daily Echo and Total Saints Podcast co-founder Adam Leitch (@adamleitchsport) to find out.

How has Hasenhuttl changed Southampton?

It has been his attitude as much as what he has done tactically that has transformed Saints. He has been a breath of fresh air and exactly what the club needed.

Hasenhuttl has been up front, honest and demanding, while also coming across as a very decent guy. From day one he set a tone that has really lifted the place.

Who has emerged as the driving force of Hasenhuttl’s Saints?

He has managed to extract improved performances across the side, but particularly in midfield where the majority of the goals have come from.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has been given the captaincy and been a real driving force for the team. James Ward-Prowse is in the best form of his career and consistently delivering on his potential. Nathan Redmond is as big a threat as he has been since he signed, while Oriol Romeu has been revitalised.

Defensively, Saints are much improved, too. The emergence of right-back Yan Valery has been a real treat.

Top scorer Danny Ings (eight) can’t play against his parent club, but how has he been doing at St Mary’s?

He has done well when he’s played, but that hasn’t been as often as Saints would have liked. Some nagging injuries have stopped him getting an extended run in the side, but the quality he brings means he will always get in the team when available.

Where is the main goal threat going to come from?

Most likely from midfield. The last goal for a striker came in mid-January.

Saints’ form has been amazing in 2019 under Hasenhuttl – indeed they are fifth in the table taken from the start of the year. And almost all of the goals that have got them there have been contributed by the midfield.

Which areas do you expect the teams to exploit in each other?

It is going to be an interesting match because Southampton’s recent form means the pressure is all on Liverpool.

Saints have a nice cushion over the bottom three and no more top-six teams to face after Liverpool, so they can afford to have this game as a free hit. That will likely make them a dangerous proposition on the counter-attack.

As an outside observer, what have you made of Liverpool this season?

They have been good fun to watch, but you can’t help but feel they need to deliver a major trophy this season.

Liverpool seem to have reached a stage where they have a squad which needs to win things on a regular basis.

What’s been the standout moment of your campaign so far?

Probably the recent 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur. It was unexpected, but proved Saints’ quality and resilience, as well as giving them a very valuable three points.

How do you expect Southampton to line up?

It is very hard to be sure. Hasenhuttl has used a back three for most matches but surprisingly switched to a 4-2-2-2 for the game at Brighton having had time to work on it specifically for that fixture.

He will no doubt want to keep that element of surprise as to what he goes with.

What is your prediction for the match?

Southampton 1-2 Liverpool.

Premier League 2018-19
Premier League 2018-19

Source link – https://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/first-team/344053-view-from-southampton-counter-attacks-the-key