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    Liverpool vs Southampton Match Preview


    Liverpool have the opportunity to open up a seven-point gap over fifth-place Manchester United with victory over EFL Cup finalists Southampton on Sunday afternoon.

    Jurgen Klopp's side recorded a much-needed win at Watford on Monday night to tighten their grip on a Champions League spot, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal all dropping points the previous day.

    Opponents Southampton have enjoyed another solid season in the Premier League, where they currently lie in 12th-place, and a win at Anfield this weekend would elevate Claude Puel's side to as high as ninth in the table.

    Liverpool

    Liverpool are within touching distance of qualifying for the Champions League for only the second time in the last eight seasons but face stiff opposition this weekend in the form of their bogey team Southampton.

    The Reds lost both legs of the EFL Cup semi-final against Sunday's opposition, which denied Klopp's side a second successive trip to Wembley, while the club have only taken one point from their previous two league matches at St Mary's.

    Defeat at home to Crystal Palace two weeks ago seemed to stall Liverpool's recent momentum but their rivals were unable to capitalise, with both Manchester teams dropping four points within the next seven days.

    Emre Can's spectacular bicycle kick proved the difference between The Reds and Watford on Monday night, with the visitors missing several chances in the closing stages to extend their narrow lead.

    Liverpool were almost made to pay for their profligacy when Sebastian Prodl rifled an effort against the crossbar with only seconds remaining but the away side held on to record a third successive win on the road.

    Only three more victories are required for The Reds to guarantee a top-four position, while the club could even afford to drop points if fifth-place Manchester United fail to beat Arsenal later in the day.

    Liverpool are still without the services of Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson through injury although the dead leg suffered by Philippe Coutinho against Watford is not likely to rule him out of contention this weekend.

    Southampton

    Southampton have failed to replicate their form of last season, when a sixth-place finish under Ronald Koeman earned the club European qualification, but The Saints have once again enjoyed a steady campaign.

    The club needed to cope with the losses of Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama, which brought in £58 million during the summer transfer window, while defensive stalwart Jose Fonte moved to West Ham in January for a reported £8 million.

    Manager Claude Puel has also had to negotiate a 53-game season including an unsuccessful campaign in the Europa League, which ended in the group stages, and a triumphant run to the final of the EFL Cup.

    The Saints beat Liverpool 2-0 on aggregate to reach a first domestic cup final since 2003 but fell narrowly short in the final against Manchester United, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring an 87th-minute winner.

    Although Southampton currently reside in 12th position ahead of the game, a repeat of their 1-0 victory at Anfield in January would elevate the club to ninth-place with two games in hand over many of its rivals.

    Virgil van Dijk was very much the star man during the first half of the campaign but the in-demand Dutch defender sustained an ankle injury in January, which is likely to rule him out for the remainder of the season.

    January signing Manolo Gabbiadini also made an instant impact at St Mary's with six goals in his first four matches but the Italian striker has failed to find the net since his return from spending a month out with a groin strain.

    Liverpool Team News

    Philippe Coutinho should be in contention for the visit of Southampton on Sunday after the Brazilian midfielder sustained a dead leg against Watford, which caused him to sit out training on Wednesday.

    Belgium forward Divock Origi, who will keep his place in the side despite not netting in his last four games, is preferred to Daniel Sturridge as the England striker continues his stint on the substitutes bench.

    Sadio Mane will not return for The Reds until the start of pre-season having undergone knee surgery last month and captain Jordan Henderson is still not ready to return after nearly three months out with a bruised foot.

    Forward Danny Ings (knee) will not play again this season despite returning to training, while Adam Bogdan and Ovie Ejaria are still unable to return having been sidelined with knee and ankle injuries respectively.

    Southampton Team News

    Southampton could name an unchanged side to the one which drew 0-0 at home to Hull City eight days ago, with several players still unavailable due to injury.

    Top scorer Charlie Austin remains on the sidelines having failed to recover in time from a dislocated shoulder, while Virgil van Dijk is unlikely to play again this season due to the ankle injury he sustained in January.

    Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and left-back Matt Targett are also missing due to hamstring problems, with the duo both unable to make any first-team appearances since October 2016.

    Head-to-head

    Southampton have a good record against Liverpool in recent times after winning three and drawing one of their last four encounters, which included a 1-0 win at Anfield in January's EFL Cup semi-finals.

    The Saints have won eight and drawn two of their past 16 matches against Liverpool, although they also suffered a 6-1 defeat in that sequence in the EFL Cup quarter-finals 17 months ago.

    Since the start of the Premier League, Liverpool have beaten their South Coast opponents on 18 occasions in all competitions although Southampton have won a highly-respectable 13 matches and a further nine games have been drawn.

    The Reds also lead the way in terms of the overall head-to-head record, with 51 wins to Southampton's 30 victories, while 24 of the 105 encounters have ended in draws.

    Score Prediction

    Liverpool 2-1 Southampton
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    Item Reviewed: Liverpool vs Southampton Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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