Sunday 22 October 2017

Clyne keen to challenge old friends

Nathaniel Clyne is looking forward to testing himself against his former team-mates
Nathaniel Clyne is looking forward to testing himself against his former team-mates

Southampton will welcome back a number of familiar faces when Liverpool arrive next weekend for a match Nathaniel Clyne believes could prove vital in the top-four race.

During last summer's unparalleled talent drain, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert all left St Mary's in favour of a move to Anfield.

Those exits came at a reported combined cost of £49million and compounded the departures of head coach Mauricio Pochettino, Calum Chambers and Luke Shaw.

Saints, though, have confounded those expecting them to struggle, with Ronald Koeman's men sitting fourth in the Barclays Premier League standings with 13 matches remaining.

Liverpool, four points worse off in seventh, are next up and England right-back Clyne is well aware of the importance of overcoming his former team-mates.

"It is another game we're looking forward to playing," he told Press Association Sport. "We know Liverpool are a good side.

"It is going to be another tough test for us, but I am sure if we play like we did (against West Ham) we can go and get the three points we're looking for."

Put to Clyne that the match looked important in the top-four battle, he said: "Yeah, definitely.

"I mean, if we get the win then we can push for that top four and hopefully we can stay there for the rest of the season."

To overcome Liverpool, Saints will need to show a cutting edge that has been missing in recent games at St Mary's.

Koeman's side have not won in four successive home matches in all competitions, with the 10 men of West Ham the latest to leave with a smile on their face.

"I think teams are coming up against us and making it really difficult for us to play," Clyne said after Wednesday's goalless draw.

"I think they are coming to play counter-attacking football, which means that we have to try and break them down.

"Yeah, it makes it difficult but we're up for the challenge."

Southampton have certainly proved up to the challenge defensively, with their record of 12 clean sheets and just 17 goals conceded the best in the Premier League.

"I think we've been solid all season, really," Clyne added. "We've got the best defensive record in the Premier League.

"We know if we keep that up, we know we can always go and win the game.

"It's been a great season. No one expected us to be where we are at the moment, but we're flying high at the moment.

"The confidence in the team and the morale's high and we're playing good football and we're looking good."

Press Association

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport