Liverpool aim to extend their excellent recent run of form when they travel to St. Mary’s to face Southampton on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Southampton come into the fixture on the back of a 3-1 defeat away to West Ham last weekend that ended a six-match unbeaten run in the Premier League. They are ninth in the table with 39 points from 10 wins, nine draws and eight defeats. It has generally been a successful first full season at the helm for Mauricio Pochettino, whose side have trailed off a little after a superb start to the campaign but are nevertheless solidly placed in the table. Their season looks even more impressive in light of the fact that he took over a team fighting against relegation when he replaced Nigel Adkins last January.
Pochettino’s side are energetic out of possession, pressing high up the pitch and forcing errors. The reward for their labour is clear: only five teams have given up fewer on target efforts from inside the penalty area this season. While the tactic can come unstuck against more direct teams, as in the defeat to West Ham, it is generally very effective.
When the ball is won, Saints seek to attack quickly and purposefully, with the fleet-footed Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez buzzing around the central reference point of Rickie Lambert. All three have been in good form this season, contributing (scoring or assisting) to 12 or more goals apiece. Overall, Southampton are the sixth highest scorers in the league.
Pochettino is likely to be without Jos Hooiveld (eye) for this match, but otherwise looks to have a full squad to pick from, with Dejan Lovren back in contention after recovering from the ankle injury he picked up in mid-January.
Liverpool come into this on the back of a thrilling 4-3 victory at home to Swansea last weekend that extended their unbeaten league run to eight matches. They are well placed in fourth with 56 points from 17 wins, five draws and five defeats, six points clear of Tottenham Hotspur in fifth and just four points short of league leaders Chelsea.
It has been a superb second season at the club for Brendan Rodgers, who after an inconsistent first season has got his team firing on all cylinders in the current campaign. Liverpool look well placed to finish in the top four and could even stake a late title challenge, with home matches against Chelsea and Manchester City still to come.
Attack has been Liverpool’s clear strong suit this season, with their scoring rate of 2.60 goals per match currently the second best in the league. They are all pace and movement in the final third, with Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling providing able support for the stellar front pairing of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge (pictured above), who have amassed a total of 41 goals.
The Reds’ defensive record is less impressive, but that is perhaps to be expected given the number of players they commit forward. Only Manchester City can boast better records at both ends of the pitch. Indeed, based on the positioning of the shots they have conceded, Liverpool could have expected to concede three or four less goals than they actually have.
Rodgers will definitely be without Jose Enrique (knee) and Lucas Leiva (knee) for this game, while Mamadou Sakho is unlikely to take part despite making good progress in his return from a hamstring injury.
Southampton v Liverpool Betting Tips
Southampton were 1-0 victors when these sides met at Anfield earlier this season and also triumphed, 3-1, in last season’s equivalent fixture, scoring twice within the opening half hour or so and dominating the overall shot count. There have been five victories for Southampton, four for Liverpool and one draw in their last 10 league meetings.
Saints have a mixed record at home to top six clubs this season, having secured creditable draws against Arsenal and Manchester City but lost to Chelsea and Tottenham. They rarely make things easy for any opponent and will certainly fancy their chances of scoring against a Liverpool defence who have kept just three clean sheets in their last 15 league matches.
Liverpool are high on confidence and in fine form, particularly in front of goal. They failed to score in the fixture between these sides at Anfield earlier this season, but will have Suarez at their disposal this time around. They have the necessary speed and ingenuity to cause problems for a Southampton defence lacking pace at its centre.
We expect to see an entertaining match, most likely to end in a score draw.