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Can Liverpool put the brakes on Southampton’s surprise top-four charge?

18 Feb | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Can Liverpool put the brakes on Southampton’s surprise top-four charge?

The home side have shocked many by refusing to slip back down the table, but will this be the start of the Reds overhaul for that coveted Champions League spot?

When the Liverpool FC bus pulls up outside St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday, three players on board will be back on familiar territory – albeit heading for the away dressing room, rather than the home, for the first time in their careers.

Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren were the poster boys of Southampton’s surprise-package surge to a top half finish last season. Lovren marshalled the defence superbly. Life-long Saint, academy product and captain Lallana took the fight to the opposition and provided the ammunition for striker Lambert, a £1m purchase back when the club was languishing in League One.

But Liverpool had had an even better surprise-package season, going from seventh in 2012/13 to within two points of winning the title last term.

When the Reds came-a-calling, offering title challenges, Champions League football and substantially bigger pay packets, the Saints trio marched into Anfield.

There was talk of crisis and even relegation at Southampton, who also lost two other first-teamers and the head coach; while Liverpool were tipped for another title challenge.

But things haven’t quite worked out that way.

This season Southampton have been like a birthday balloon that is somehow still bobbing against the ceiling months after you expected it to deflate and float back down to the floor.

New boss Ronaldo Koeman brought in replacements for the departed players: Dusan Tadic has provided the creative spark lost with Lallana. Lambert’s replacement Graziano Pelle has 12 goals. Toby Alderweireld might just be the best defender to ever play in the Saints’ red and white stripes.

Liverpool’s has been more akin to a balloon that was perhaps under-inflated to begin with – especially for the former Saints trio.

As the have struggled for consistency in the Premier League, the title challenge never materialised. Lallana and Lovren have been in and out of the side. Lambert has just three goals and almost left for Aston Villa on transfer deadline day.

With two thirds of the season gone, Southampton are in fourth, three places and four points better off than Liverpool.

With the Reds’ stated aim a top-four finish, this is the kind of match they need to start winning if their season is not to be a disappointment.

They could be helped by Southampton’s injury problems: Koeman had such a paucity of fit players available for the last match – a 0-0 with West Ham – that he only named six men on the bench. Though midfield metronome Morgan Schneiderlin, striker Shane Long and Alderweireld could all return to face the Reds.

As for Liverpool, captain fantastic Steven Gerrard will miss the match with a hamstring problem, while Rodgers is still sweating on the fitness of his creator-in-chief Raheem Sterling.

The last match between these two was an unconvincing 2-1 win for Liverpool at Anfield on the opening day.

But is the stage now set for Lambert, Lallana or even Lovren to come back and spoil Saints’ top four charge? Don’t bet against it…

7/4Liverpool to beat Southampton

4/1 Adam Lallana to score at anytime