This Monday, Southampton will be strutting into Anfield with their heads held high thanks to their impressive form, which has lasted a little longer than most pundits predicted.
The smirk on their faces will be more apparent given the fact that Liverpool inherited three of their players — Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert — but somehow did not quite get their money’s worth.
Liverpool spent RM115mil on Lovren - the most they have paid for a defender yet ironically, while Lovren stumbled from first XI to being replaced by Frenchman Mamadou Sakho, the Saints boast the best defence in the league having only conceded 17 goals so far.
Lallana is and should be nervous in his debut against the Saints after giving up the captain’s armband last summer and making the move to Liverpool for RM140mil — the second-highest price the Reds have ever forked out.
Of the three, Lambert would be the player with the lowest profile as he came in for a bargain and was never expected to lead the strike force anyway.
Credit is due to Saints’ boss Ronald Koeman who has deservingly bagged Manager of the Month twice this season and proven that loss of those three players as well as Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers is no excuse for a mediocre performance.
Southampton will be looking to continue their streak of four away wins while maintaining their Champions League qualification spot.
Liverpool, on the other hand, despite an impressive in-form 2015, still linger at seventh place and have much to fight for in this meet.
It is a must-win for the Reds especially since the pursuit for top four is still an open race.
The little drama yesterday that saw Mario Balotelli demanding for the opportunity to take the late penalty kick against Besiktas from Jordan Henderson and getting his way was not well received by teammates on the pitch, captain Steven Gerrard who was sitting in as a pundit as well as many fans and ex-players.
Although it is a big no-no to overstep the captain and argue with teammates on the pitch, this was just a controversy waiting to happen since the bad boy made his move back to England last summer.
The penalty was scored, and it turned out to be the winning goal of the match. And that’s the bottom line.
The Reds must not let the drama cause any tension amongst themselves. The players have finally started working well together and have got to focus on the bigger picture.
After the match against Southampton, Liverpool will be travelling to Turkey for the second leg against Besiktas and then, to Etihad for the big match against Manchester City — all within a week.
With the pressure of maintaining their form, finishing top four, and progressing further in both the FA Cup and Europa league, petty issues such as Balotelli’s mischief, should be brushed off.
League leaders Chelsea should have an easy win today against Burnley who currently stand second from bottom of the table.
Arsenal, who are one point behind Southampton, will be put to test by Crystal Palace today while the Gunners’ rival Tottenham Hotspur will be meeting West Ham United tomorrow.
Manchester City, who are now seven points behind Chelsea in second place, will not want to trail any further behind and will be looking to secure a win when they host Newcastle United later tonight.
At Liberty Stadium, it will be a big match for Louis van Gaal, whose first loss as Manchester United’s manager came about when Swansea beat the Red Devils at Old Trafford in the first game of the season in August.
With the Champions League berths being a close fight among Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Southampton and Spurs, neither team can afford to slip up this week.