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LIVERPOOL

St Mary`s Stadium, Southampton

March 1st, 2014; 17:30 BST

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Liverpool will look to consolidate their top four positions and possibly close the gap to league leaders Chelsea when they travel to the south coast to face Southampton. It will be a clash between two sides with attacking intent and Southampton will look to play party poopers in the race for fourth by trying to throw a spanner into the works of an inconsistent, albeit impressive Liverpool side this season. The game promises to be a thriller for the neutrals, especially with Liverpool`s suspect defending and Southampton`s attacking play.

Team news and tactics

Southampton

After a superb start to the season where they impressed everyone with their stunning football, Pochettino`s men have been off the pace in the race for the European places. After the ‘brutal’ training ground incident involving Osvaldo and Fonte, Pochettino has done well to rally around his troops and keep them focused. Southampton have just begun toreplicate their early season form with only one defeat in their last seven games. Southampton may have nothing to play for, but the English contingent in their squad, who have been called up for the friendly against Denmark will make sure they put a strong performance to increase their chances of making the starting eleven for the three lions on March 5.

Pochettino will hope to shrug off last week`s disappointing loss against West Ham by going all out against the Reds. Southampton will continue to play their pressing game and will look to stifle Liverpool`s midfield. Schneiderlin will be a key player for Southampton and he will look to negate Liverpool`s quick counter attacks and their fluid passing with his defensive role in midfield. Callum Chambers and Luke Shaw will have to tread carefully in dealing with Liverpool`s ‘S’ strike force of Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge. Lallana will look to play his usual role in the attacking front, by helping out Lambert and Rodriguez. Jay Rodriguez, who tormented the Liverpool defence in the corresponding fixture last season, will once again fancy his chances against Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel with his direct play and blistering pace.

Expected started line-up (4-4-2):  Boruc (GK); Chambers, Lovren, Fonte, Shaw ; Cork, Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Lallana; Rodriguez, Lambert.

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Liverpool

Liverpool fans will be hoping for their team to continue its surge towards the title, but if the defence continues to perform like it did in the last few weeks, then they will have to settle for a top four spot. Rodgers seems to be playing down Liverpool`s hopes of winning the league crown at the moment, but even he, at the back of his mind will be hoping for the Reds to lift the title, come May. Liverpool have scored an impressive 70 goals this season, but it is their defence which has been a cause for concern. Rodgers would have had ample time to analyse what went wrong at the back against Swansea and the focus will surely be on Agger and Skrtel who faced a torrid time against Bony last weekend. With Lucas unavailable and Gerrard looking vulnerable in midfield, the likes of Henderson and Coutinho will have their task cut out in tracking Southampton`s attacking trio of Davis, Lallana and Cork, especially when Liverpool lose possession.  Rodgers` men left acres of space for the Swansea midfield to exploit, which lead to them concede three goals at home and they looked vulnerable whenever there was a Swansea wave of attack. It is imperative that they plug the gap in midfield and Joe Allen did a pretty good job of holding the midfield together in the second half against the Swans. The Welshman will be pretty confident of making the starting eleven, but it remains to be seen if he is selected ahead of the impressive Raheem Sterling, who has been in scintillating form this season. The full backs in Johnson and Flanagan will have to be a little circumspect and curb their attacking instinct a little bit to help out Gerrard in midfield.

Daniel Sturridge has scored in each of his last seven games since his return from injury and will look to continue the trend against Southampton. Luis Suarez has played a big part in most of those goals and the former Chelsea man will once again look for his strike partner`s help to punch holes in the Southampton defence.

Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Mignolet (GK); Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan; Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho; Sterling, Suarez, Sturridge

Key facts

  1. Daniel Sturridge (16) is the only English player to have scored more goals than Jay Rodriguez (10) in the league this season.
  2. Rodriguez is two away from scoring his 50th English career league goal.
  3. Luis Suarez has the joint-most goal assists in the Premier League as well as being top scorer.
  4. Only four teams have kept fewer clean sheets than Liverpool (who have 7) in the Premier League this season.

Player to watch out for

Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Liverpool’s number seven has been silent when it comes to goals in the last few weeks. He will look to break his ‘mini goal drought’ against the Saints on Saturday. The Uruguyan has been playing wide in recent times and Sturridge and Sterling have benefitted from Suarez`s new role in assisting them. It is turning into a fascinating race for the golden boot between the SAS, and Suarez will be hoping to extend his lead and pip his team mate to the award.

Prediction

Southampton 2 -3 Liverpool

Liverpool will look to avenge the disappointing loss against Southampton in this fixture last season and will fancy their chances in front of goal against an attack minded opposition. This game promises to be a cliffhanger and Liverpool should see it through if their defence holds remains stable throughout the ninety minutes.

Blast From The Past