This is clearly not the right time to be facing in-form Liverpool, who are not giving up on the Premier League title, but Southampton should have enough motives to put a dent into the Reds’ title bid having crashed out of the FA Cup and also lost last league game to West Ham. Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers’ charges enjoyed a hard-fought triumph over Swansea last time out.
Southampton have come a long way in just three years, having moved from League One to the Premier League, establishing themselves as a top table side in the elite division, with four Saints players called to England’s latest squad. Mauricio Pochettino’s side haven’t quite managed to realise their full potential this season, but at least the first top 10 finish since 2003 appears on the cards. The Saints have turned on the style in the New Year, scoring 16 goals in first 8 fixtures before suffering a slight dip in form of late. Following the 1-0 triumph over high-flying Hull City at KC Stadium, Southampton were eliminated from the FA Cup after missing a host of clear-cut chances against Sunderland, before allowing West Ham to come from a goal behind and record a 3-1 victory in London. As a result, Mauricio Pochettino will request a response from his players, whereas the likes of Lambert, Lallana, Rodriguez and Shaw will be especially motivated to impress Roy Hodgson after being called for England friendly against Denmark. The visitors will be without Jos Hooiveld through an eye injury, but Dejan Lovren and Gaston Ramirez are again considered for starting places.
Despite considerably lacking strength in depth and quite a few first team regulars missing a significant portion of the season, Liverpool are still mere four points behind the Premier League leaders Chelsea and they do not seem ready to give up on the trophy just yet. With no European distractions, the Reds were able to fully focus on domestic competitions and while that did not yield results in the FA Cup and Capital One Cup, their league campaign is still going according to plan. Liverpool currently have a six-point cushion in the race for a top 4 finish, but the most important thing is they continue to score goals for fun. Even with star striker Luis Suarez suffering a serious dip in form, the Reds have been pretty impressive up front of late, bagging 12 goals in last 3 Premiership fixtures. The 4-3 triumph over Swansea should give us a clear idea as to what to expect from the clash at St Mary’s, especially since Southampton won’t hesitate to attack their more illustrious opponents every time an opportunity presents itself. Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho have resumed training, but they are unlikely to feature at St Mary’s, just like Jose Eqnrique, who remains sidelined with a knee problem.
With top 10 finish all but secured, Southampton can play without any pressure and they will certainly aim to prove once again they can match even England’s top sides. Meanwhile, Liverpool need a win if they are to remain in the title chase, which is enough to suggest we are likely to see a high-scoring match at St Mary’s.
Verdict: Over 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 3/5
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