Any meeting between Liverpool and Southampton is a difficult one to call for Rickie Lambert.
The 35-year-old enjoyed the most prolific years of his career with Saints, helping the south coast club rise from League One to the Premier League and becoming an England international along the way.
In the summer of 2014, Lambert’s dream move to his boyhood team, the Reds, materialised and he spent a single season at Anfield.
Now retired, he will watch Sunday afternoon’s showdown as a spectator, but it is not just his allegiance to each side that leaves him indecisive on the potential outcome.
“Southampton have obviously been through a dip. [But] they have had a couple of good results recently so they are on a bit of a high,” said Lambert on this week’s episode of LFC Later.
“They are missing Charlie Austin. It’s interesting to see Southampton at the minute because everything for the last eight years has been going up and up; they’re in a little bit of a fight. Because it’s at home, I can see a draw maybe.
“They had a great win [at West Bromwich Albion] and that’s going to give them a lot of confidence. It’s going to be hard against Liverpool, especially if the forward players are on song – they can virtually beat anyone. So it’s going to be a tough task.”
Among the former Southampton players currently in the Liverpool ranks, Adam Lallana is one who will especially hope to return this weekend after missing the previous three matches due to injury.
Like Lambert, the midfielder was a key figure in Saints’ climb up the divisions before the two men moved to Merseyside at the same time.
Indeed, his influence on that journey was ‘incredible’.
“He was there when I arrived. They had just got relegated and there was talk that he might leave that summer,” recalled Lambert.
“But he stayed because he could see what might come. To see his progression, along with the club, was incredible. He is in the top three players I’ve played with, he’s incredible.
“He was just a step ahead of everyone; his touch, his turns, his skill.
“What I’ve always said about him, which doesn’t get associated with him, is his determination and will to win. He was the captain at Saints for the two seasons before he left. He was only a young lad but he took it on his shoulders brilliantly.
“I loved his determination to win, that’s what really shone out to me. Everything else that goes with it is incredible too. To share the journey with him for five years was special.”
Lallana has made just seven appearances for Liverpool this term, having been sidelined with a thigh injury sustained in pre-season until late November and suffered subsequent setbacks.
But his forthcoming availability provides a fillip for Jürgen Klopp’s team as they prepare for the Premier League run-in and Champions League knockout stages.
“I’m excited that he’s back now. Hopefully he can get some fitness. It’s a good stage of the season to get him back and I think he’s going to do well,” added Lambert.