The English Premier League title may already be decided, but the relegation race and competition for European qualification spots is just heating up. This showdown between Liverpool and Southampton will have consequences for both sides.
The Reds are currently in sixth place with 45 points. Arsenal is two points ahead, and Chelsea is seven points up in the final Champions League spot, but both teams have a game in hand on Brendan Rodgers' side.
The Saints have a four-point cushion above the bottom three. If the club fails to earn points in this game while one of the current relegation-bound teams gets a victory this weekend, Southampton will face a concerning situation.
Here is everything you need to know about the fixture.
Where: St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, England
When: Saturday, March 16, 11 a.m. ET
Watch: Fox Soccer Plus
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2 Go
What They’re Saying
Liverpool’s 3-2 comeback victory against Tottenham Hotspur was a massively important result and has kept the team’s slim hopes of earning a Champions League spot alive. However, captain Steven Gerrard knows there is absolutely no room for error going forward, and The Guardian’s Louise Taylor quotes him saying the following:
Hopefully it is not too late but we will need to produce the perfect finish to sneak in the back door. The top five places are the target. Hopefully the teams above us will slip up. All we can control is our performances and our consistency and hopefully we will finish strong.
Southampton Player to Watch: Morgan Schneiderlin
The Saints have several promising young players, but Scheiderlin has stood out from his teammates with a superb campaign.
He has been a defensive force as a holding midfielder, racking up tackles and interceptions at an incredible rate. According to Whoscored.com, he is tied for the league lead in tackles per match with 4.3 and ranks atop the Premiership with 3.8 interceptions per game.
No other player ranks in the top five in both categories. At just 23 years old, he certainly has a bright future winning balls in England.
However, the man tied for the lead in tackles per match is Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva, and Schneiderlin will have to outperform his counterpart this weekend in order for the Saints to have a chance.
Liverpool Player to Watch: Luis Suarez
While leading the EPL is tackles and interceptions is impressive, Suarez owns the top mark in a vastly more important statistic: goals. With 22 successful strikes in league matches, no player has found the back of the net more often than the Uruguayan.
His dribbling skills in tight areas are extraordinary, and his finishing ability has been unparalleled this season.
There is no striker in England right now more capable of punishing mistakes from the opposition.
Like the Southampton back line, fans must keep a watchful eye on Suarez, as a single moment of distraction may lead to a goal.
Key Matchup: Southampton Back Line vs. Luis Suarez
The Saints hemorrhaged goals at the beginning of the season. The defense has improved since the start of the campaign, but concerns still exist.
Now the team has only conceded the fourth-most goals in the Premiership, when it had a comfortable lead in this category after the first few games.
The lapses in concentration that led to such poor defense have become less frequent, but have shown up again recently. A 4-2 loss to Newcastle at the end of February was an example of how inept the Saints' back four can be at times.
Liverpool is in fantastic form right now, and Suarez’s confidence is soaring. If Southampton delivers another dud in defense, the Uruguayan will be adding to his goal total.
Prediction: Liverpool 2, Southampton 1
Southampton’s defense will not be able to keep Liverpool from scoring multiple times in this match.
The Reds will have a comfortable lead in possession due to their slick passing, and the visitors will constantly prod at the Southampton defense, waiting for the hosts to make an error.
As has been the case far too often in this campaign, the Saints' back line will allow itself to be pulled out of position, and Suarez will have opportunities in this contest.
Liverpool’s star striker will get on the score sheet, and the Reds will get enough goals in this game to earn another victory.