Southampton’s top four aspirations will receive a stern test when they host in-form Liverpool at St Mary’s on Sunday (16:15 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Saints come into the match having been involved in a number of tight and low-scoring matches over the last seven weeks. They are fourth in the Premier League, one point clear of Arsenal in fifth, with 46 points from 14 wins, four draws and seven defeats.
Ronald Koeman’s side drew 0-0 at home to West Ham last Wednesday. They dominated both possession and the shot count but were unable to convert their chances against a visiting side who played out the final half-hour with 10 men. Graziano Pelle missed a couple of good opportunities, while Maya Yoshida headed wide from close range near the end.
While Southampton have done well to regain momentum following their four straight losses between late November and mid December, they have begun to lean ever more heavily on their defensive solidity. Koeman’s side have the best defensive record in the league, while four of their last six victories have come in combination with a clean sheet.
Saints have continued to pick up strong results away from home – winning four in a row on their travels – but have looked a little short of ideas in some of their matches against smaller sides at St Mary’s. Pelle looks in need of a rest, while Koeman will hope that January loan signing Filip Djuricic can inject a tad more creativity into their attack when called upon.
Koeman will be unable to field the injured Emmanuel Mayuka (groin), Jay Rodriguez (knee) and Sam Gallagher (knee) and the suspended Ryan Bertrand. In addition, Morgan Schneirderlin (knock), Toby Alderweireld (hamstring) and Shane Long (rib) are all doubtful.
Liverpool travel south on the back of six wins in their last eight league matches and just one defeat in their last 15 matches in all competitions. They lie seventh in the Premier League table, with 42 points from 12 wins, six draws and seven defeats.
Brendan Rodgers’ side endured a largely frustrating evening at home to Besiktas in the Europa League on Thursday. They struggled to create chances against their well-organised visitors and only emerged victorious thanks to a late Mario Balotelli (pictured) penalty. The win gives them a good chance of going through, having already reached the last eight of the FA Cup.
The club’s hopes of a top four finish looked forlorn at best following a stuttering start to the campaign that saw them lose six and win just four of their first 12 fixtures. Even as recently as mid December, they were seven places and seven points shy of the top four. But that deficit now stands at three places and four points for the Premier League’s form side.
The switch to a three-man defence, with the additional security of a double pivot in front of them, has provided the attacking players with the freedom to express themselves in a similar manner to last season. Liverpool’s average goal difference per match over their last eight league games has improved by nearly 1.5 goals in comparison to their previous 17 fixtures.
Rodgers will definitely be without the injured Brad Jones (thigh), Jon Flanagan (knee) and Lucas Leiva (groin), while Steven Gerrard (hamstring) is doubtful.
Southampton v Liverpool Betting Tips
Liverpool were somewhat fortunate to come away with a 2-1 victory when these sides met at Anfield on the opening day of the season. The sides have generally been well-matched since Southampton’s return to the top flight in 2012, each recording two victories (one at home and one away from home) in the four encounters prior to this campaign.
Southampton have struggled to create good chances in each of their last two home matches but should have more opportunities to do so against a more expansive Liverpool side. They comfortably defeated Arsenal 2-0 at St Mary’s on New Year’s Day and will hope to produce a similar performance on Sunday.
Liverpool are in excellent form and seem to have rediscovered some of the spark that saw them run Manchester City so close in last season’s title race. Some of their summer signings are starting to find their feet, while the return of Sturridge had added a little more zip and purpose to an already improving attack.
This will be an interesting match between two well-matched sides and one that we believe is most likely to end in a draw.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 12/5 with Totesport, Betfred or Unibet.
- Both Southampton’s last four home matches and Liverpool’s last four away matches in the league have seen two or less goals and we expect both of those records to stretch to five matches. Back under 2.5 goals @ best odds of 4/5 with Ladbrokes.