St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton
March 16, 2013; 15:00 GMT
Liverpool FC travel to St. Mary’s Stadium this Saturday to face a struggling Southampton side. The Reds will be keen to continue their winning run as they make a late push for a spot in Europe. Southampton will be looking to get maximum points at home as they look to stay clear of the relegation zone.
Mauricio Pochettino will be looking for a repeat of the performance which saw The Saints secure an unlikely victory against reigning English champions Manchester City. Southampton have failed to register a win since and the manager will hope that his side can lift themselves against Liverpool. The players will be looking to find some form as The Saints have a tough run of fixtures and shall face Chelsea the following weekend. Lambert and Ramirez will be the key to The Saints’ chances as they brace themselves on what is surely going to be a tough match.
Liverpool have enjoyed a fine run of form in recent weeks and have been regularly finding the back of the net. January signings Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho have had an immediate impact on the side and with Luis Suarez at his mercurial best; Brendan Rodgers will go into this game with a lot of confidence. The comeback victory against Tottenham would have been a real morale boost for the players and Liverpool will be looking for maximum points to continue their late charge up the Premier League points table.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Mauricio Pochettino has a fully fit squad to choose from and is likely to field his strongest team for this encounter.
Southampton is expected to line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation which is preferred by their manager. The lineup is expected to make a few changes from their previous fixture. Boruc will start in goal and he will be shielded by the regular centre back pairing of Fonte and Hooiveld. Yoshida will continue at right back while Shaw is expected to take his place on the opposite flank.
Pochettino is likely to instruct his defence to be compact and stifle the opposition attackers. The full backs are likely to play in their own half and not expose the channels. Liverpool’s front 4 are highly mobile and are likely to interchange throughout the game. Pochettino is likely to instruct his team to mark particular zones rather than players in order to maintain a tight defensive shape.
Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork are expected to start at central midfield for this fixture. Schneiderlin has been particularly impressive this season and has done a good job of shielding the defence. The 23 year old has also chipped in with important goals and Southampton shall need him to be at the top of his game. Cork too shall be working hard to try and win the ball back from the opposition while keeping the game ticking over.
Southampton have a young side which likes to play good passing football. The manager will want his team to play to its strength and try to use its home advantage. Ramirez is expected to start the game at attacking midfield. The Uruguayan has had a patchy first season but has shown moments of brilliance. Ramirez will have the dual responsibility of creating attacking opportunities through the centre and also pressing high up the pitch in order to create problems for Liverpool to pass the ball out from the back.
Lallana will be playing on the left flank while Puncheon will start the game on the right. Both wingers will have to work extremely hard to keep Liverpool’s marauding full backs in check. Enrique and Johnson are both quick and good going forward. Lallana and Puncheon will have to track their runs and also provide cover for their full backs to avoid a being outnumbered. With Coutinho’s fine start to the Premier League and Stewart Downing in good form, Liverpool carry a genuine threat down the flanks which Southampton’s wingers must be wary of. Lallana and Puncheon will also look to exploit the space afforded by Liverpool’s attacking full backs. Both wingers will look to get in behind the defense and supply balls for top scorer Ricky Lambert to attack. They will also look to make diagonal runs into the opposition penalty box and get into goal scoring positions themselves.
Lambert will be the focal point of the attack and shall be expected to hold up the ball and link up play with the other players. Lambert has had an excellent first season in the top flight and has been Southampton’s main goal scoring threat. Lambert is especially good in the air and will be looking to capitalise on any crosses and set pieces which come his way. Liverpool is likely to have a large share of the possession which could leave Lambert isolated up front. The big targetman would thus have to drop deep on occasions to receive the ball or win headers to play it on to Southamptons wingers.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Boruc; Yoshida, Fonte, Hooiveld, Shaw; Cork, Schneiderlin; Puncheon, Ramirez, Lallana; Lambert.
Brendan Rodgers has been lucky with injuries with most of his key players fit throughout the season. Joe Allen is set to miss the remainder of the season as he prepares for a shoulder surgery. Other long term absentees include Martin Kelly (ACL) and Fabio Borini (dislocated shoulder)
Pepe Reina is a doubt for this game as continues to struggle with his calf. He will be subject to a late fitness test. Brad Jones will deputise in his absence in case the Spanish international fails to get fit in time.
Carragher and Agger have formed a stable centre back pairing which has kept quite a few clean sheets in recent weeks. The duo will be expected to continue. Carragher will have his hands full trying to keep the likes of Lambert quiet. Winning the aerial duels will be crucial to Liverpool keeping a clean sheet away from home. Jose Enrique has had a fine run of form since his return from injury and will start at left back. Johnson had a poor outing against Tottenham but is expected to retain his place at right back.
Lucas Leiva will play as the defensive midfielder and he will be partnered by Gerrard who will have the primary responsibility of dictating Liverpool’s play from the deep. Lucas will be crucial in keeping the likes of Ramirez in check and will be important in breaking up opposition attacks. The Brazilian will also play an important role in initiating the play from the back. Liverpool’s possession based approach requires dominance in midfield and the duo will look to ensure the same.
A revitalised Downing will provide the width on the right flank while new signing Coutinho is expected to start on the left side. Downing will provide balance to the play while Coutinho will look to add some flair to the attack. The little Brazilian is already showing signs of having struck up a good understanding with the forward and is contributing regularly to Liverpool’s attacks. His tricks and through-balls will be relished by Suarez and Sturridge. Both wingers will look to cut in and shoot at every opportunity. Johnson and Enrique will be looking to push on and provide the width to Liverpool’s play
Suarez is likely to start in the support striker role. The Uruguayan is likely to float all over the final third and look for opportunities to penetrate the Southampton defence. Suarez and Sturridge will use their dribbling ability and pace to drag opposition defenders from their position allowing each other more space and time on the ball. Sturridge in particular will be important to Liverpool’s attack as he will provide the penetration needed in case Southampton decide to sit deep.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Gerrard; Downing, Suarez, Coutinho; Sturridge.
Players To Watch Out For
Rickie Lambert (West Ham)
Lambert has been sensational for The Saints this season and has been their main attacking threat. The big centre forward has banged in the goals regularly throughout the season and has also made a few assists. Lambert is central to Southampton’s attack and he will once again play an important role. With Southampton likely to be starved of possession, Lambert’s presence up front will help launch quick counter attacks. Lambert is also a big threat from set pieces, and with Liverpool’s recent frailties from set pieces, it could probably present Southampton’s best chance for a goal.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
The little Brazilian has made a fantastic start to his Anfield career and has already put in some impressive displays. Coutinho is blessed with excellent dribbling skills, but he also has excellent vision. Coutinho is an intelligent footballer and knows which positions to take up in the attacking third. Coutinho will work hard to retain possession and win the ball high up the pitch, but his quick passing is expected to do some real damage to Southampton. The front 4 of Liverpool are all expected to interchange often and Coutinho will look to find any attackers in space across the final third. Liverpool’s No. 10 has all the skills and tricks to unlock any defence and with Southampton expected to sit deep; Coutinho could very well play a key role in helping Liverpool score against Southampton.
Southampton 1 – 3 Liverpool
Liverpool have been on a good scoring run and it is likely that they will find the back of the net multiple times in this game. Southampton do not have the strongest of defences and they are likely to concede on more than one occasion. Boruc is likely to be kept busy throughout the course of the game by The Reds.
Southampton do have quality going forward and may score a goal. But they are likely to be outgunned in this encounter. We expect plenty of chances created and this game is likely to be a high scoring affair. In the reverse fixture Liverpool bombarded the Southampton goal but only managed to score one. With the addition of new players the team has become a lot more clinical. We expect Liverpool to score more this time round and walk away with all 3 points.