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Match Preview: Southampton v. Liverpool, 03.16.13

Liverpool head south with hopes of continuing their fine form, which they'll have to do against a Southampton side that's in need of as many points as possible heading into the season's final stretch.

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Julian Finney

Even with only six days between matches, it feels like the weeks are getting longer and longer. Part of that might be down to the fact that I always want Liverpool to be playing as much as possible when they're doing well, but part of it's also the reality of the club only being alive in one competition. Nice for fitness and rest, but watching Zenit capitulate against Basel was a clear reminder of an opportunity gone for Liverpool to be challenging on more than one front.

If they're doing that, though, there's no guarantee that we see Liverpool get the result against Spurs last Sunday, which finally erased the haven't beat a side near the top narrative. At least until everyone started explaining it away as a match that Spurs lost rather than one that Liverpool won, which was a really cheerful way for everyone to celebrate. We could all agree that the lack of talk about fourth and Champions League and etc. was a nice change, though, and that the focus seems to be firmly placed on the immediate future.

And that involves Southampton, who have the same one result at a time mantra, albeit for slightly different reasons. They sit four points clear of relegation and just one ahead of Aston Villa, and with Chelsea's visit following Liverpool's next weekend, they'll be focused on getting anything they can from tomorrow's match. They were flying high after the 3-1 win over a dismal Manchester City at the start of February, but two losses and a draw have mostly stalled any momentum from the victory over the title holders, even if the injury-time penalty save from Artur Boruc at Norwich last weekend provided a boost.

The change in manager--Nigel Adkins out, Mauricio Pochettino in--hasn't seen a complete sea change in terms of setup, but the Argentinean has, in the words of Brendan Rodgers, made a "slight tactical adaptation" since arriving and increased the pressure on the ball. Pochettino won't have any injury concerns at all, with both Danny Fox and Steven Davis back and no other fitness problems known. Morgan Schneiderlin has received plenty of attention in a defensive midfield role, and each of Rickie Lambert (who leads the team with 12 goals), Maya Yoshida, Nathaniel Clyne, Jason Puncheon, and Adam Lallana have been regulars as well.

For Liverpool:

Johnson Carragher Agger Enrique
Gerrard Lucas
Downing Suarez Coutinho

As Brendan Rodgers noted earlier in the week, the only known fitness concerns are ones that aren't a huge surprise--Pepe Reina is the only major doubt, and despite Joe Allen needing shoulder surgery, the midfielder should be available for inclusion. Martin Kelly's targeted the end of the season to make his return, but it's likely that neither him nor Fabio Borini will be able to feature for Liverpool until the preseason.

Rodgers hasn't been quick to rush Reina back into the squad, and while he's an upgrade over Brad Jones, I don't know that we'll get the Spaniard just yet. Jones was good against Spurs and should be serviceable here, even though he's not quite as polished in distribution, as others have pointed out. No changes expected at the back barring an unexpected knock or two, which should mean the back line that's become first-choice over the past few weeks.

Formation informs the midfield once again, which will likely be the case until the season wraps up. It looks like Steven Gerrard and Lucas will remain as the only two in central midfield, with both Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson left on the bench for substitute roles. Numbers up front have taken precedence over numbers in the midfield, something we didn't necessarily expect under Rodgers, but for now it's been working well enough.

Those numbers up front will include those we're now accustomed to seeing--Stewart Downing and Philippe Coutinho on the right and left flanks respectively, and Luis Suarez setting up behind Daniel Sturridge centrally. If for whatever reason one of the aforementioned names drops out (at this point it'd be Sturridge due to fitness), then we'll see Henderson or Allen in with Suarez further forward, but it's hard to see past these four currently.

Kickoff tomorrow is set for 3:00PM GMT/11:00AM EST, which means no live option in the UK, but Fox Soccer Plus will be airing the match in the US. Open thread and matchday post will run as usual, and with limited viewing options we'll try to include any other ways to follow that we might not normally include. Feel free to join us around here or over on Twitter, and we'll try to make sure to keep things as positive and happy as possible until they're completely miserable and everything's the worst again.

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