x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Southampton manager Koeman not convinced Liverpool weaker despite Suarez’s departure

Departures of Lallana, Lambert, Lovren, Shaw and others have not dimmed Dutchman's optimism

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman, pictured during a friendly against Swindon Town on July 21, 2014, in Swindon, England, says Liverpool are stronger despite having lost Luis Suarez. Scott Heavey / Getty Images
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman, pictured during a friendly against Swindon Town on July 21, 2014, in Swindon, England, says Liverpool are stronger despite having lost Luis Suarez. Scott Heavey / Getty Images

Ronald Koeman said on Saturday that his first game in charge of Southampton comes against a Liverpool side stronger than last season, despite the departure of Luis Suarez.

The Uruguay forward, named player of the year for his efforts as the Merseyside team fell just short in the Premier League title race, left for Barcelona for £75 million (Dh459.9m) during the summer.

Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers has invested heavily in his squad in the off season and brought in almost £50m worth of talent from Southampton alone with the signings of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren.

Koeman, who replaced Mauricio Pochettino, who left St Mary’s for Tottenham Hotspur, said: “Luis Suarez is a great player who scored a lot for them.

“But if you look through the squad of Liverpool, they have so many good football players. Liverpool for this season is much stronger than last season. It’s a great start for us to play away against Liverpool. We know it’s a tough one, but everybody starts on nil.”

Koeman is optimistic his side is ready for their first game under him, as they look to repeat last year’s 1-0 triumph at Anfield.

“Everybody has to show their qualities and ambitions and I believe we are very well prepared,” he said. “I know what team will play on Sunday. I know everything, but I have to tell first to the players what we like to do. I know it will be difficult on Sunday because Liverpool is a top match, but we try to play on our philosophy.”

sports@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE