March is a big month for Liverpool. The Reds open the month on a crucial three-match road trip, with all the fixtures holding a realistic possibility for points. Their first stop is at St. Mary’s Stadium to take on a Southampton side that is pretty much locked into a mid-table spot, while Liverpool is simultaneously battling to hold the 4th Champions League spot and challenging for the league title. Here are a couple keys for Liverpool as they kick off this important stretch of away competitions:
Come out as the side that has everything to play for: Though it is admittedly cliché, the truth is that being a championship side requires coming out in fixtures like this with focus and aggression. Liverpool has had a tendency to start slow and play sloppily in road games this season and must avoid this by being the aggressor early Saturday. They have more than once demonstrated their ability to jump out quickly on teams, but even if they don’t get an early goal, coming out aggressive will at least put the home side on their heels and help Liverpool’s shaky back line settle into the game and find their composure.
Have a bigger presence in the central midfield: Last week against Swansea, Liverpool ran into problems on counterattacks because of how much they love to attack from the wings and throw players forward. When they lost the ball in the attacking third, oftentimes players were caught up in the attack, particularly central midfielders. This meant that Swansea, who plays a tighter formation, were catching Liverpool exposed in the center of the park and were able to run at an out of position Liverpool defense with numbers. Southampton plays a similar style to Swansea, something Liverpool needs to be mindful of.
To best avoid this problem, Liverpool should start Joe Allen in place of Phillipe Coutinho. Allen came on as a sub against Swansea and provided a more defensive presence in the middle of the park that stifled Swansea’s counterattack. Starting the game with Allen may be a prudent move as he provides a more defensive presence without having to sacrifice much in the attack. This would also leave the option to bring on Coutinho late in the game should Liverpool need to press for a late goal.