Southampton host Liverpool at St. Mary’s Stadium on Sunday in a Premier League matchup with Champions League implications. Seventh-place Liverpool enter the match unbeaten in their last six matchups across all competitions, while Southampton are within one point of fourth place.
Southampton have wavered a bit after a strong start to their campaign, and are 2-2-1 in their last five matches across all competitions. Liverpool won their latest match 1-0 in a hard fought Europa League match against Besiktas. The Reds were saved by a converted Mario Balotelli penalty kick in the 85th minute, although the Italian striker’s insistence to take the spot-kick stirred some controversy. Balotelli took the ball away from teammates Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge to take the shot. Midfielder Steven Gerrard, and Liverpool legend, characterized the move as disrespectful.
Southampton tied their last match, 0-0, against relegation-zone opponent West Ham. Ronald Koeman’s fourth-place side had to be disappointed to come away with just a draw. The matchup resulted in a tie despite Southampton dominating for most of the game against a West Ham side that has struggled to find their footing this year in the Premier League.
Both sides in Sunday’s match are vying for the ever-important fourth-place spot in the Premier League, signifying a qualifying position in the Champions League. Southampton will go into Sunday just one point behind Manchester United, who fell to 2-1 to Swansea on Saturday. Liverpool are five points behind the Red Devils but could make up a lot of ground with a win over Southampton.
Brendan Rogers’ Liverpool side will look for production out of midfielder Raheem Sterling, who has scored 5 league goals. If forwards Balotelli and Sturridge can begin to combine a bit more on the attacking end, then the Liverpool squad will be a dangerous group to contend with. Southampton’s attack, on the other hand, has been heavily reliant on striker Graziano Pelle. After a strong start the Italian attacker has cooled off, not scoring in eight league games. If Pelle can return to his early-season form on Sunday, it would certainly help in an extremely important matchup.
Liverpool, after last year’s success, have been battling fatigue because of increased play. A successful campaign last year has meant the side have qualified for a multitude of competitions this year. The Reds have already played 42 matches after playing just 43 all of last year. The Saints will clearly be a tough matchup for Liverpool, so the squad will have to play at nearly full strength.
Sunday’s marquee Premier League matchup projects to be a thriller between two squads clawing their way toward the top of the table.
Prediction: Liverpool are playing with momentum. It will likely be a close match and a draw would not be surprising. But in the end, Liverpool may prove to be too much if the attack can catch some breaks.
Southampton 1 – 2 Liverpool
Kickoff time: 11:15 a.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra