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Match Preview: Southampton v. Liverpool, 03.01.14

Team news, ways to watch, and a full preview as Liverpool head to the St. Mary's Stadium to face Southampton.

Scott Heavey

Has anyone mentioned that there's eleven matches left this season? Because there are. Eleven of them. With Liverpool in fourth, just four points off Chelsea atop the Premier League and pretty much one match per week the rest of the way. Eleven of them in total, with 33 points to play for and, given the way this season's gone so far, absolutely no way to predict how things will end.

There won't be any shortage of nerves, and there are reasons to feel horrified about any and all of the fixtures left on the calender. Technically you don't have to feel horrified, but if you're doing this whole thing right, you're firmly into I hate you don't leave me territory. It's not going to get better.

Tomorrow's ostensibly as bad--or at least as tough--as it gets, as Southampton have proven mighty difficult for Liverpool to break down in recent years. Both home and away, Saints have gotten the better of Liverpool, including a comfortable 1-0 win at Anfield earlier this season. They looked as though they'd crack following the departure of Executive Chairman Nicola Cortese in mid-January, but they immediately rattled off six matches unbeaten before stumbling at Sunderland in the FA Cup in a 1-0 loss and losing 3-1 away to West Ham last weekend.

Mauricio Pochettino should only be without Victor Wanyama and Jos Hooiveld, meaning he'll have most of his impressive collection of young talent available. At West Ham he went with Artur Boruc in goal, Jose Fonte, Maya Yoshida, Callum Chambers, and Luke Shaw across the back, Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, Jack Cork, and Jay Rodriguez in the midfield, and Adam Lallana in support of Rickie Lambert up top. Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne, Gaston Ramirez, and James Ward-Prowse could feature as well.

For Liverpool:

Johnson Skrtel Agger Flanagan
Henderson Coutinho
Suarez Sturridge Sterling

As long as current status holds--which isn't exactly a given--we're only a week or two away from having everyone but Jose Enrique back and healthy for the run-in. Lucas and Mamadou Sakho are back in training, with the latter possibly included on the bench tomorrow, while Enrique's return date is still unclear.

With Sakho probably not ready, it looks as though we'll miss out on four central defenders across the back against Southampton again because there might actually be a Fowler after all. Daniel Agger is apparently nailed-on to start, and my guess is that he partners Martin Skrtel centrally with Kolo Toure again on the bench. I wouldn't mind Toure and Agger given their early season successes, but I'm not exactly confident in any of the available central defenders as things stand. Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan should again start in the fullback spots barring a return for Aly Cissokho.

I'm really confused as to what's going to shake out in the midfield, although the easy answer is that everything stays the same. I also think Joe Allen is well-suited to this type of match, but I don't really want to see Philippe Coutinho or Raheem Sterling drop out. My preference is to be a coward and guess that it's Steven Gerrard deep with Coutinho and Jordan Henderson more advanced, but if I had a backbone I would probably say that Allen should start with Henderson and Gerrard. And I actually wouldn't mind Sterling on the bench, ready to come on after about an hour or so for Coutinho to change shape and inject pace if needed.

What's probably more likely is the same front six or Coutinho dropping out, and it would be hard to argue with either. We know Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will start up top, and Henderson and Gerrard are mostly likely in the middle, leaving two of Allen, Coutinho, and Sterling to fill the remaining spots. All are good options, and if fitness holds out, that's a concept we might actually become familiar with.

Kickoff is set for 5:30PM GMT/12:30PM EST, with Sky Sports 1 carrying coverage in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra airing the match live in the US. Our coverage will start with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.

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