Ahead of Southampton's trip to Anfield in the Premier League, we spoke with Liverpool Echo reporter James Pearce to get the inside track...
How would you describe Liverpool’s season so far?
A real mixed bag. After a very bright start, they were rocked by a heavy defeat to Man City and took time to recover from that. They've looked great going forward but vulnerable defensively – 16 of the 17 league goals they have conceded have come on their travels. After last month's 4-1 defeat to Tottenham at Wembley the alarm bells were ringing with a big focus on Jurgen Klopp's failure to strengthen defensively in the summer window. However, since then the gloom has been lifted by three straight wins against Huddersfield, Maribor and West Ham. With Liverpool fifth in the Premier League and top of their Champions League group, they have a decent platform to build on with the return to fitness of Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho bolstering the squad.
How has the return of European football affected the club’s fortunes?
I don't think they can blame the added demands of European football for their indifferent league form. Being back in the Champions League after a three-year absence has given the whole club a lift. They were lucky with the draw for the Champions League as they were placed in a very average group. With two games remaining they are well placed to reach the knockout stages. Klopp will be desperate to go into next Tuesday's game away to Sevilla on a high after beating Saints.
How has Jurgen Klopp’s approach changed, if at all, from last season?
I don't think it's changed much. But the signing of Mo Salah has given Klopp greater options going forward and he's been a revelation so far. He's surpassed all expectations with 12 goals already this season. Last season Liverpool were much more reliant on Sadio Mané, now they have a really potent threat on both wings. Klopp still prefers 4-3-3 but he has started to mix that up a bit. At West Ham before the international break he went with 4-4-2, although the wingers were so advanced that it was virtually 4-2-4.
How has Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain settled in at Anfield?
After a slow start, he's starting to find his feet. It was tough for him initially with Klopp saying he needed time to adjust to Liverpool's style of play. He endured a poor full debut at Leicester in the League Cup and has done plenty of bench warming, but in recent weeks he's shown signs of living up to his £35million price tag. He capped his full Premier League debut for the club at West Ham with a goal and that should do wonders for his confidence.
Sadio Mané, another former Saint, has been in and out of the side. Is he expected to feature on Saturday?
With the red card against Man City followed by a hamstring injury on international duty, it's been a stop-start season for Mané so far. He was brilliant on his comeback against West Ham but then aggravated the problem helping Senegal qualify for the World Cup last weekend. Mané is now back at Melwood undergoing treatment with Liverpool still hoping he will be fit enough to play some part against Saints.
Why do you think Liverpool have struggled in recent meetings with Saints?
Southampton have certainly been a bogey team for Klopp since that 6-1 thrashing Liverpool dished out at St Mary's in the League Cup in December 2015. Liverpool haven't won any of the five meetings since and haven't even scored in any of the last four games. I think it underlines the issues the Reds have had with teams who are very resolute defensively and set up to frustrate them. Liverpool have shown signs of being better at breaking down stubborn opposition this season. With Salah and Oxlade-Chamberlain on board, they certainly boast more firepower.