Premier League | St Mary's | Sat 1 Mar | 5:30pm
If this game doesn’t have a deluge of goals, the FFT team will eat their keyboards.
It’s sad to say, but what do Southampton really have to play for this season? They’re 9th in the league, 11 points behind Tottenham, who occupy the Europa League qualifying spot. There’s a 15-point gap between the Saints and Sunderland in 18th. With 11 games left relegation is highly unlikely, especially when you consider the quality of the teams in the bottom half of the table. Put it this way, 10th-placed West Ham are closer to the drop zone than they are to Southampton, who sit just above them.
- West Ham 3-1 So'ton (Prem)
- S'land 1-0 So'ton (FAC)
- Hull 0-1 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 2-2 Stoke (Prem)
- Fulham 0-3 So'ton (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-3 Swansea (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool (FAC)
- Fulham 2-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- WBA 1-1 Liverpool (Prem)
For Mauricio Pochettino, this campaign is about making progress. Finishing in the top half of the table is a starting point. They’re only two points off last season’s total of 41, which led them to a 14th-placed finish. If they can carry on playing their exciting brand of attacking football until the end of the season they will continue to impress, thus becoming a more attractive destination for top players during the summer. Completing the double over title-chasing Liverpool will add to their growing reputation.
Brendan Rodgers’ free-scoring side are just four points behind leaders Chelsea, with their focus solely on the Premier League. With no European football or domestic cup competitions to distract them, Liverpool can concentrate on their remaining 11 fixtures.
Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea all have to travel to Merseyside before the end of the season, giving the Reds three opportunities to take points off their rivals. Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton have all been gunned down at Anfield already. After a four-year absence from the Champions League, qualification for Europe’s premier competition was Liverpool’s holy grail at the start of the season, but their momentum has propelled them into a championship fight.
Both the managers have the luxury of almost fully fit squads to choose from on Saturday. Rodgers is still without Jose Enrique, but both Mamadou Sakho and Lucas Leiva have returned to training.
Player to watch: Steven Davis (Southampton)
As the Premier League’s top goalscorers (70), Liverpool are a fearsome prospect going forward, but their lack of defensive composure continues to undermine their assault on the Premier League. Only Newcastle have conceded more goals in the top 11 (38, to Liverpool’s 35). Kolo Toure’s misplaced pass against West Bromwich Albion cost them two points at The Hawthorns. They were almost the architects of their own demise against Fulham and Swansea, but thankfully for Rodgers his attacking force came to the rescue.
Liverpool can be got at and Southampton have the players to do them some damage. It would easy to single out either one of Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana or Rickie Lambert as the main attacking threats, but it’s Davis who often slips under the radar. Rodriguez and Lallana lead the siege from out on the channels, with Davis operating in a more central role. Against Hull the midfielder was the game’s second top passer, completing 61 of 72 attempts – 13 of which came in the attacking third. The former Rangers player teed up 3 efforts on goal for his team-mates and dispossessed an opponent 4 times.
Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho are a formidable triumvirate, but they don’t offer a proven defensive shield to the back four. The Reds’ defensive game plan mirrors that of Barcelona – keep possession and press with energy and intensity off of it. If Davis can stop Gerrard quarterbacking the play and feed Southampton’s danger-men, the Saints will have an opportunity to test Liverpool’s shaky defence.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- L'pool 0-1 So'ton (Prem, Sep 13)
- So'ton 3-1 L'pool (Prem, Mar 13)
- L'pool 1-0 So'ton (Prem, Dec 12)
- So'ton 2-0 L'pool (Prem, Jan 05)
- L'pool 1-0 So'ton (Prem, Dec 04)
Both teams have undergone massive transformations thanks to the meticulous and ambitious approaches of Rodgers and Pochettino. For Liverpool to be even talking about the title just 20 months into Rodgers’ reign as Anfield underlines how far he’s taken them. Unbeaten in eight, Liverpool are top of the Premier League form guide, with six wins and two draws. Their last defeat in the league came on December 29 when they lost 2-1 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Pochettino’s Southampton have drawn more games than they would have liked to recently – three of their last six – but they’ve earned themselves a lot of admirers with their adventurous football. Earlier in the season it was the Saints who brought Liverpool crashing back down to earth with a 1-0 win at Anfield.
But, and it’s a big but, Luis Suarez wasn’t playing that day. The Uruguayan striker returned the following week against Sunderland. He has since gone on to score 23 goals in 22 games and create 11 for his team-mates. How is Pochettino going to stop him? Not to mention the other half of the SAS, Daniel Sturridge, who has found the net in eight consecutive Premier League games?
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Liverpool’s record this season at teams currently in the top 12 is W1 D3 L3.
- Liverpool have conceded 23 goals in their last 12 away matches with just 1 clean sheet.
- Southampton have had at least 4 goals in 5 of their last 8 home matches.
- Southampton have conceded in 7 of 8 home games against top-six teams since the start of last season but have lost only once (W3 D4 L1).
Best Bet: Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.50
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Southampton will score, but they won’t be able to suppress Liverpool’s firepower. Rodgers’ men to win 3-2.