Two sides separated by only goal difference in the race to qualify for Europe for next season meet in a potential decisive clash at the St. Mary’s Stadium, as Southampton take on a Liverpool side that is gaining momentum.
It was a big test for Southampton as they travelled to Stoke City last time out looking to win for the first time in four games, and they certainly appeared as though they meant business as their first half dominance was rewarded with two goals, both scored by Graziano Pelle. The brace was crucial for the Italian as his goal drought was becoming a concern, but that performance suggests that he may just be returning to his best form, and at a very good time of the season.
Despite conceding a goal shortly after the break and seeing two key refereeing decisions go against them, the Saints held on to a victory which gives them the initiative in what is a very tight race that extends into the bottom half of the table. However, they have every reason to be wary of Liverpool coming into this one after the chastening they suffered in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season. A repeat of the 6-1 scoreline seems far-fetched, but Ronald Koeman is unlikely to take many chances.
Since their last Premier League outing, Liverpool have overcome bitter rivals Manchester United in the Europa League, so will surely be in a buoyant mood coming into this one. Over the two legs Jurgen Klopp got his tactics spot on and the aggregate score of 3-1 would have been more emphatic were it not for the excellent goalkeeping that repelled them on numerous occasions, so after months of inconsistency the Reds might now be heading in the right direction.
Philippe Coutinho served a reminder of what he is capable of at Old Trafford with a stunning individual goal, and over the course of the game he looked as sharp as he has for a long time, while striker Daniel Sturridge misfired a little as he continues his journey back to full fitness. But the star of the show again was Mamadou Sakho, who is now finally beginning to show exactly why he was among the most highly-regarded central defenders in Europe when he signed in 2013.
Victor Wanyama and captain Jose Fonte are both back from suspension for Southampton, who have Sadio Mane available for selection after his red card at Stoke was rescinded.
Last Meeting: The brilliance of Philippe Coutinho helped give Liverpool a perfect start to their game at Southampton in February 2015 as he curled a magnificent 30-yard striker beyond Fraser Forster within three minutes. The home side had a lot of possession as they searched for an equaliser, but their defeat was confirmed when Raheem Sterling shot low into the net midway through the second half.