Tough test at St. Mary’s for Liverpool

Consistency may have eluded Liverpool during a season which promised much yet failed to meet expectations, but as Jurgen Klopp’s team travel to St. Mary’s this weekend for a potentially tough test against a Southampton side who continue to make good progress under Ronald Koeman, there is still hope that Liverpool can enjoy a strong end to the season that may put them in contention for a top four finish.

Three straight Premier League victories have not only made the Reds one of the in-form teams alongside West Ham and Bournemouth, but also reignited hopes of making a late push to secure Champions League football next season.

It would be a remarkable achievement given the predicament Liverpool were in when Klopp arrived at the helm in October, and although it has taken the charismatic manager time to implement his philosophies and tactics, there have been clear signs that the team is heading in the right direction. The recent 3-0 victory against Manchester City epitomised the progress that has been made under Klopp, with Liverpool dismantling a team who may have got the better of them in the Capital One Cup Final, but enabled the Reds to bridge the gap between the two sides in the table. 5/1 to finish in the top four with Betway certainly represents good odds if Liverpool are able to continue their strong run of form, but they will have to put in another strong performance to get past Southampton who have a potential Europa League spot in their sights.

History would suggest that Liverpool should fancy their chances of coming away from St. Mary’s with a result, with the Reds winning their last three visits to the South coast. The most recent victory was, of course, the wonderful 6-1 victory in the Capital One Cup Quarter Finals as Liverpool tore through a shell-shocked Southampton side with ominous ease, but while a repeat of that performance and result would be most welcome, it would be logical to assume that Klopp and the players will not have it all their own way this time around.

However, Liverpool have certainly not struggled to score goals in the Premier League lately, with eighteen goals in just six matches illustrating the considerable threat that the team poses when they hit top gear. Roberto Firmino has certainly hit form at the right time of the season with three goals in his last four games, and while his eight for the season tally may put him a long way away from the top scorer in the Premier League this season, the Brazilian may be worth backing to open the scoring with Betway. Daniel Sturridge may also fancy his chances of getting on the scoresheet, with his brace in the Capital One Cup tie likely to spur the England international on to continue his progress from a season ravaged by injuries and get himself firing on all cylinders ahead of Euro 2016 this summer.

Southampton may not exactly head into the clash with Liverpool in the best of form, but last weekend’s victory at Stoke ended a three-game winless streak that threatened to curtail their progress up the table. An awful run of results between November and December raised question marks over whether the bubble had burst at St. Mary’s, but the Saints responded by going on a six-game unbeaten run which included victories against Watford, Manchester United and West Ham. This may illustrate the difficult task that lies ahead for Liverpool – one that may be made harder by Southampton’s successful appeal of Sadio Mane’s red card which makes him available for selection.

Shane Long, who was reportedly a Liverpool target during the January transfer window, is another player that Liverpool will have to pay close attention to, although Charlie Austin will miss out with a hamstring injury.

Klopp will also have to find a way through a solid defensive unit that have only conceded thirty goals in as many fixtures this season, with their strength in defence aided by the return of Fraser Forster who kept six consecutive clean sheets before their recent slump in form.

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