Although a standard Premier League season is 38 games long, there are often fixtures which prove to be decisive turning points towards securing the title, qualifying for Europe or avoiding relegation.
Liverpool’s upcoming trip to St. Mary’s to face high-flying Southampton could be the most important game of the season, with only four points separating two clubs in the midst of a wonderful battle for the top four.
Brendan Rodgers’ side have hit form at just the right time, with the manager reigniting the spark and creative flair into the team that are now playing the wonderful free-flowing football that fans were treated to throughout the 2013/2014 campaign. Although there is still room for improvement in certain areas, Liverpool could not be in better touch ahead of a fixture that could ultimately define their season, particularly with much more than three points on the line for both clubs.
Harry Kane may have been backed by www.bookies.com to single-handedly beat the Reds in their previous league fixture, but it could be down to Daniel Sturridge and company to step up to the plate when it matters
Substance over style
Every Liverpool fan wants to see the team play attractive football in every game, but there are certain fixtures where getting the results by any means possible is much more important than the performance. Rodgers will know that his team will have to be on top of their game, particularly as Southampton have an impressive home record and have the best defensive record in the Premier League.
Gaining control of the midfield area could be crucial to Liverpool’s chances of coming away from the South coast with a positive result, although there will be considerable onus on the defence to keep out the threat of Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic. Crystal Palace’s goal in the FA Cup Fifth Round clash illustrated that there is still considerable room for improvement, but coming from a goal down to win should provide a considerable confidence boost.
This is particularly the case for Sturridge who has already found himself amongst the goals since returning from injury, while Mario Balotelli is finally beginning to show signs that he wants to work for the team and express himself in a positive manner on the pitch.
Losing the manager and players that were integral to their wonderful 2013/2014 campaign led many to believe that Southampton could be amongst the teams battling against relegation, but they have surpassed all expectations and stand a realistic chance of finishing in the top four. Ronald Koeman is undoubtedly in the running for Manager of the Season for building on the work carried out by Mauricio Pocchetino and bringing in players who have made an instant impact in the Premier League.
It remains to be seen whether the Saints can last the distance and secure a Champions League spot, but they have more than enough quality to trouble any team in the league and should be respected. Their chances of putting a dent in Liverpool’s top four aspirations may be affected by a growing injury list which threatens to derail their season, with the likes of Shane Long, Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez all missing for the visit of Liverpool.
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