Premier League surprise package Southampton will welcome high-flying Liverpool to the St. Mary’s Stadium on Saturday, March 1st (9:30 AM Pacific, 17:30 GMT) in what should be a fascinating clash between two teams, which arguably play the most attractive brand of football in the division.
After a sensational start, Southampton have slowed down a bit in recent months and look set to finish in a comfortable position in mid-table. However, suggestions that the Saints have nothing toplay-for, are pre-mature, as Mauricio Pochettino’s men will be hoping to sneak into one of the Europa League places rather than settle for mid-table mediocrity.
However, the loss against West Ham last week served as a big blow and the Saints will have to bounce back in order to pursue their hopes of finishing in Europe. Liverpool are the opponents on Saturday and having already registered a victory over the Reds in the corresponding fixture at Anfield, the Saints would certainly want to complete a historic double over Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Liverpool kept up their relentless charge at the top of the table with a somewhat fortunate victory over Swansea City last weekend and Brendan Rodgers will be fully aware that his side now need to do much better if they are to grab all three points against a solid Southampton outfit.
While the Liverpool attack has been irresistible, the defence badly needs tightening-up, otherwise, the dangerous Southampton attack will certainly make them pay. A win is of paramount importance for Liverpool to keep up their onslaught at the top, but they should also be mindful of the fact that a defeat could put their Champions League spot in danger as well, with Tottenham breathing down their necks in the race for fourth spot.
Despite dominating the clash against West Ham United, Southampton somehow managed to lose the game last weekend. There was not much wrong in the performance, though, and Mauricio Pochettino will probably not make too many changes to the lineup.
Dejan Lovren and Gaston Ramirez have returned to full fitness and are in contention to start. Lovren should slot-in at centre back in place of Maya Yoshida at centre back, but Ramirez will probably have to do with a place on the bench.
The back-four will be completed with the Luke Shaw, Jose Fonte and Calum Chambers lining-up alongside Lovren.
Victor Wanyama is still a doubt and if the Kenyan is not passed fit for the clash, then Jack Cork will take his place in midfield. The likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and Steven Davis will complete the midfield trio, while young James Ward-Prowse is also in contention.
Southampton’s England contingent in Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana will be providing the creative spark, with Rickie Lambert leading the line for the Saints.
Brendan Rodgers has been handed a huge boost this week, with the return of Mamadou Sakho and Lucas to training from their long-injury lay-off. However, the clash may have come too soon for the duo and Rodgers may not make too many alterations to the line-up that started against Swansea City.
Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel look set to retain their place at the heart of the defence, despite enduring a tough time against Swansea while Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan will be starting at the full-back positions.
The midfield trio of Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Lucas complement each other very well and will surely start, while young Raheem Sterling will be providing the width to the Liverpool attack.
Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez will continue their fine partnership in front of goal and will look wreak havoc to the Southampton defence.
Southampton (Probable XI): Boruc; Shaw, Lovren, Fonte, Chambers; Rodriguez, Schneiderlin, Cork, Davis, Lallana; Lambert
Liverpool (Probable XI): Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan; Sturridge, Henderson, Gerrard, Coutinho, Sterling; Suarez
Southampton: W D W L L
Liverpool: D W W L W
21/09/2013 Liverpool 0 – 1 Southampton
16/03/2013 Southampton 3 – 1 Liverpool
01/12/2012 Liverpool 1 – 0 Southampton
Southampton vs Liverpool Prediction
Southampton at home are a very tough nut to crack and Liverpool can certainly expect a tough ride against the Saints.
Southampton will be encouraged by the fact that Liverpool’s defensive deficiencies can be easily exploited and in the likes of Lambert, Rodriguez and Lallana, the Saints certainly have enough quality to pounce upon any errors. However, on the other side of the spectrum, keeping out Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez can prove to be a very difficult task for the Saints’ back-four.
Liverpool clearly need to tighten up at the back and the defence can no longer rely on the attack to bail them out time and again. Southampton are a very good team and Liverpool will have to be at their best both in attack as well as defence to grab all three points from the game.
Southampton and Liverpool look very well matched in all areas of the pitch and it should be an entertaining game with the two teams sharing the spoils. Southampton 1 – 1 Liverpool.
Southampton vs Liverpool Television
The match will be televised on NBC Sports Network (USA), and Sky Sports 1 (UK).