Sunday 22nd February – 16:15 – St.Mary’s Stadium
Liverpool head to Southampton tomorrow looking to continue their remarkable run of just one defeat in 17 games. Brendan Rodgers’ side took a giant stride towards the last-16 of the Europa League with victory against Besiktas on Thursday, courtesy of a Mario Balotelli penalty. The Reds also reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup last weekend, coming from behind to beat Crystal Palace. Ronald Koeman took charge of Southampton in the wake of Liverpool’s summer transfer raid, in which a host of players left St Mary’s and ended up at Anfield. Tipped for relegation by some before the start of the season, Saints have had a fantastic season to date. They had last weekend off, but have suffered just one defeat in their last nine league matches. But the biggest tests are still to come as they target a top-four finish, perhaps at the expense of Sunday’s opponents.
The Key Battle: Graziano Pelle vs Dejan Lovren
Incidentally, this was the key battle that I chose when these two sides met on the opening weekend, but it will once again be vital on Sunday.
Following an £8 million move from Feyenoord in the summer to replace Rickie Lambert, Graziano Pelle made a great start to life at Southampton, scoring eight goals so far this season.
However, he has failed to net in his last eight league games, with his last strike coming against Everton on 20 December.
Dejan Lovren was one of three players to move to Liverpool from St. Mary’s in the summer, but has perhaps not had the impact he was hoping for.
The Croatian has faced stiff competition for the centre-back role, and a reported training ground bust-up with Reds skipper Steven Gerrard can’t have helped.
- The Saints have been boosted by the news that Shane Long and Morgan Schneiderlin are available again after injury.
- Matt Targett is in contention after recovering from the head injury that ruled him out against West Ham.
- However Toby Alderweireld (hamstring), Jay Rodriguez (knee), Emmanuel Mayuka (groin) and Ryan Bertrand (suspended) are all out.
- Raheem Sterling could be recalled to the starting line-up after making his comeback from a foot injury as a substitute in midweek.
- Captain Steven Gerrard will again miss out with a hamstring problem.
- With Lucas (groin) sidelined as well, Brendan Rodgers would seem set to draft Joe Allen into central midfield alongside Jordan Henderson.
Southampton wins = 24 / Liverpool wins = 41 / Draws = 19
Last Meeting: Liverpool 2-1 Southampton (17th August 2014)
Liverpool made an unconvincing start to life without Luis Suarez on the opening weekend of the season – but goals from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge edged them past a Southampton side who shone despite their summer upheaval. Although the £75 million sale of Suarez to Barcelona stripped the Reds of one of the game’s most prolific strikers, Sterling and Sturridge struck either side of a Nathaniel Clyne equaliser to compensate on this occasion.
Stat of the Match
Liverpool have had 14 different scorers in the Premier League this season; the highest in the division along with Arsenal.
Where can I watch it?
Sky Sports 1 will broadcast the game live at 4pm tomorrow, with kick-off 15 minutes later. If you can’t catch it then, the highlights will be on Match of the Day 2 on BBC One that evening at 10:30pm.
My Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool are on the better form, but Southampton have great resilience and aren’t going to give up their spot in the top four without a fight. A very even game should be in store, with Eljero Elia scoring for Southampton and Raheem Sterling for Liverpool.