(Reuters) – Liverpool’s pressing ability combined with their speed and organisation make them incredibly difficult to beat in the Premier League, Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuettl said on Thursday.
The south coast club host second-placed Liverpool on Friday and Hasenhuettl, who was appointed in December, said they are not afraid to take on a team that has lost only once in the league this season.
“It’s the first time we play against a very good pressing team,” Hasenhuettl told reporters. “How they play is a perfect example of a physically strong team combined with the technical qualities, speed and good organisation.
“So you can think about why it is so hard to win against this team. Only one team has done this and that is Manchester City.
“This doesn’t mean we’re frightened, we’re not afraid of walking out on the pitch. We know that we’re playing at home, we know that we have the crowd behind us and they are pushing us.”
Since Hasenhuettl’s appointment, Southampton have won seven games with the Austrian manager lifting them out of the relegation zone and into 16th place.
Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp praised Hasenhuettl on Wednesday, saying he had done an “incredible” job to turn around the club’s fortunes by trusting young players in their bid to avoid the drop.
“I think he uses very often warm words for the opposition managers,” Hasenhuettl added. “I know him as a very honest guy and I know that if he says something then it’s not only a tactic but it’s honest.
“He has known me for a long time although we didn’t play a lot of times against each other. We had our coaching badges, we were starting them together.”
Southampton’s on-loan striker Danny Ings is ineligible to play against his parent club and Hasenhuettl said Shane Long was an option after the forward, who missed the last game with a groin injury, returned to training.
Midfielder Mario Lemina, however, remains sidelined with an abdominal injury that has kept him out of action since December.
“Long is back in training and is an option,” the manager said. “(Defender) Jannik Vestergaard is training too but if he is not ready then Jack Stephens is an alternative.
“It’s a pity that Mario Lemina is not back in training again because he still has problems this week so he needed more rest. We’re trying to bring him back to the right level… but it isn’t easy when he has had such a long time without playing.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)