Liverpool are looking for a fourth consecutive Premier League victory when they visit Southampton on Sunday, fresh off the back of knocking Man United out of Europe.
Southampton vs. Liverpool
Sunday 20th March 2016, 13:30 (GMT)
St Mary’s Stadium
Referee: Roger East
The Reds are flying at the moment, with Thursday’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford ensuring they reached the last-eight in the Europa League. Jurgen Klopp’s former team Borussia Dortmund await in the last eight.
It was Philippe Coutinho’s brilliance that ultimately proved vital on the night, with the Brazilian’s sublime finish levelling the scores and leaving United to simply play for pride.
There were once again outstanding performances from several Liverpool players, with Mamadou Sakho, Dejan Lovren and Emre Can particularly impressive.
This Reds team is a completely different animal to the one that looked so short on confidence and quality before the turn of the year, and a strong end to the season could well be on the cards.
This fixture last season resulted in a 2-0 win for the Reds, with the last meeting at St. Mary’s being the League Cup quarter final back in December – which resulted in a comprehensive 6-1 thrashing.
Similar results on Sunday would put Klopp’s team right in contention for fourth place, ahead of the Manchester derby later that day.
This is a Liverpool team now brimming with self-belief and they will feel that they can dispatch of anyone currently.
Klopp’s men have not been beaten inside 90 minutes in their last 10 matches – West Ham and Man City defeated them in extra-time and on penalties, respectively.
Three victories on the spin in the Premier League has revitalised their top-four push, and three more points against a dangerous Southampton side would be another big signal of intent.
Not only are the Reds getting results, but they also playing some fluent, attack-minded football. Klopp deserves enormous credit for the way in which he has transformed the squad.
Southampton, meanwhile, have enjoyed a fairly strong run of results of their own, and find themselves level on points with Liverpool, albeit having played two games more.
A six-match unbeaten run, which included five wins and no goals conceded, was followed up with three games without victory, but a 2-1 triumph at Stoke in their last outing steadied the ship.
Ronald Koeman’s side are an extremely well-drilled unit – that aforementioned run without letting in a goal is proof of that – and they have attacking players with the ability to cause the Liverpool defence problems on Sunday.
The Saints may not always be the most predictable of sides, but they are a team that invariably give the Reds a tough game.
Form Guide (Last 10 games)
Although matches between the pair have often been very tight in recent times, their meeting in the League Cup back in December saw a rampant Liverpool win 6-1 at St Mary’s.
Sadio Mane actually gave the hosts a first-minute lead that night, but a Divock Origi hat-trick, two brilliant goals from Daniel Sturridge and another from Jordon Ibe sent the travelling away fans home ecstatic.
In the league, the Reds and the Saints shared a 1-1 draw at Anfield in October, with Mane’s late effort cancelling out Christian Benteke’s expertly-taken header.
Liverpool have won on their last two league visits to St Mary’s, with Coutinho’s stunning strike helping them win 2-0 last season, and a 3-0 victory in March 2014 helping strengthen their unlikely title charge.
Southampton’s last win in the fixture came early in the 2013/14 season, with current Reds man Lovren ironically scoring the only goal at Anfield. Their last win at home was a 3-1 victory in March 2013.
Sunday’s showdown is certainly not an easy one to predict, especially when you consider Liverpool could be a little jaded following Thursday’s excursions.
Klopp has almost a fully a fit squad to choose from, with Joe Gomez, Lucas Leiva, Kevin Stewart and Danny Ings the only notable players definitely missing through injury.
Alberto Moreno may have recovered from the hamstring problem that kept him out of Thursday’s draw with United, while Jordan Henderson will hopefully be available, despite being ill at Old Trafford. Jon Flanagan and Joe Allen would likely replace the duo.
James Milner is still suspended, following his sending off at Crystal Palace two weeks ago.
Southampton striker Charlie Austin is missing with a hamstring injury, which is a blow for the hosts, but barring fellow absentees Jay Rodriguez and Florin Gardos, Koeman has the large majority of his squad fit and firing.
Mane is available, having seen his appeal for his sending off at Stoke last weekend successfully overturned, while Victor Wanyama and Jose Fonte are back after bans.
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Klopp spoke about his side’s new-found confidence in 2016:
We start getting more confident, that’s what you see, playing together. It was a good example (United), you saw a lot of really good moments.
You saw the second half when you can decide the game, we could decide the game with the second goal and go home – and we didn’t play the last part so there are a lot of things to do but I really like the passion of the boys.
You see how they really work. We always create chances. A few weeks, months ago we had chances but it was not so clear, it was around the box and we didn’t score and things like that – but if you play like this with a completely free man in the box, with a back-pass (pull back) and it’s clear, you have it twice and one time it’s a goal, like the Hendo situation, that’s all, so I’m pleased with this.
Koeman says revenge could be on the cards, after their 6-1 mauling earlier in the season:
I hope that the players get a little bit of a revenge feeling and revenge spirit. It was a difficult evening.
Liverpool played well, had great attacking movements and that makes it very difficult. I remember in the second half we took more risks and they punished us for the space they got that evening, but that’s a good message for this game that we need to play very compact and then we can get a good result.
Understandably, the bookies see this as tricky game to forecast, with Southampton vary narrow favourites because of being the home team.
The Saints are 13/8 to pick up all three points, while Liverpool are 15/8. The draw is 12/5, which arguably feels like the most likely of the three possible outcomes.
Daniel Sturridge is the 5/1 favourite to score the first goal, but that may not be a good bet. Divock Origi could well come in for the Englishman, who has looked rusty of late.
The 20-year-old is 15/2 to net first, while Graziano Pelle and Shane Long are 6/1 and 13/2, respectively, to put Southampton ahead.
The match is not live in the UK. TV listings around the world are here.
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