Liverpool v Southampton
Sunday May 07, 13:30
Live on Sky Sports 1
Sunday May 07, 13:30
Live on Sky Sports 1
It feels like Liverpool have taken an important step forward in the last few weeks. Usually, a sequence of away games including Stoke, West Brom and Watford would strike fear into Reds' fans far more than trips to Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City. However, Liverpool came back from a goal down to win in Stoke, and eked out hard-fought 1-0 victories at West Brom and Watford.
In winning those games, they challenged another narrative, because they were without Sadio Mane on all three occasions. Many people thought Liverpool's hopes of a top-four finish would fade once the Senegalese speedster was ruled out for the rest of the campaign, but others have stepped up. Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and even Emre Can have scored wonderful goals in the last few weeks. At the other end, the oft-derided Simon Mignolet has made some huge saves.
Monday's win at Vicarage Road means Champions League qualification is now in the hands of Jurgen Klopp's side, and after three wins in their last four games, they are at least in fine form. The spectre of their shock home defeat to Crystal Palace looms large, but it's worth remembering that defeat is the only one they have suffered in the last nine games.
Klopp says the trio of recent away wins shows the development of the club, and now is the time to push hard for a Champions League spot. He insists his players can handle the pressure of the run-in, and that the Anfield crowd must play their part.
If Klopp does deliver a top-four finish, there are statistics that tell you he will have done a fine job. LFC have the fifth-highest wage bill in the Premier League, and have qualified for the Champions League just once since 2009.
The big team news for Liverpool concerns talismanic playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who was forced off at Vicarage Road with a dead leg. The leg has been resurrected, and the Brazilian is fit to start on Sunday.
This weekend, Southampton return to the scene of their greatest achievement this season. Saints' 1-0 win at Anfield secured a place in the EFL Cup final, and even though the club ultimately lost the Wembley showpiece against Manchester United, it was still an excellent cup run.
After years of overachievement under Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman, it's hard to judge just how well Saints have done this season in their first campaign under French boss Claude Puel. Failure to reach the knockout stage of the Europa League was a bitter blow, especially as a home win in the final game against Hapoel Beer Sheva would have been enough to book a place in the last 32. A run of five wins in 16 Premier League games has ended any hopes to returning to European competition next season, but the club is safe in mid-table.
After recent reports suggesting a dip in form and a player revolt were edging him towards the exit door, Puel has come out fighting, insisting he will be in charge next term. He says he has improved a clutch of young players at the club, and is in the midst of an exciting project.
Striker Charlie Austin has been out since December, but has an outside chance of playing. Matt Targett continues to struggle with a hamstring problem.
It's easy to be distracted by Liverpool's 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace, but the fortitude the Reds have shown in their recent away matches suggests to me that they are up for the fight and are fully focused. The Opta stats tell us Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have failed to score in all three of their meetings with Saints this season, and while that's an eyebrow-raising statistic for home backers, I can't get away from the fact that I believe Liverpool will win this.
Saints have suffered big defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea recently, and almost every time they have visited one of the top clubs in the Premier League, they have lost. They've been beaten at Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Everton.
Liverpool are trading at 1.62, and given the fact the hosts are usually a lot shorter than that for a home game, I think that's a decent price.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
There have only been two goals across three meetings between the clubs this season, so you may find the odds of 2.28 on offer for Under 2.5 Goals quite tempting. However, Liverpool's last five Premier League home games have featured three goals or more, as have 12 of their 17 league games at Anfield.
An unders bet is always risky with Liverpool - Opta tell us that since Klopp took charge in October 2015, there have been 208 goals scored in PL games involving Liverpool, more than any other team.
I'm going for a Liverpool win, and Over 2.5 Goals.
Back Liverpool/Over 2.5 Goals double at [2.25]
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