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Preview: Southampton vs. Liverpool

There’s more on the telly this weekend than Manchester United’s clash with Arsenal. Liverpool make the long journey to the south coast to play Claude Puel’s Southampton side on Saturday in a clash that has a Liverpool win written all over it. Many punters suggest, Chelsea and Man City will also pick up wins against Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace respectively to keep it tight at the top.

Jurgen Klopp’s team have the edge in the odds (11/10 for the win), the head-to-head stakes, and on overall form against the south coast side. The Reds are undefeated since August in all competitions, they’ve scored more than any other club in the Premier League, putting six past Watford a fortnight ago, and they’re currently top of the league, a point ahead of second-placed Chelsea.

Southampton are in perfect balance at tenth in the Premier League. If it wasn’t for the fact that they’re turning heads in Europe, taking down Inter Milan at St. Mary’s earlier this month, the Saints would be one of the least remarkable sides in the top-flight this year; in fact, it’s arguably because of that success in Europe that they’re not doing a great deal domestically.

The Saints have a bit of an injury problem with nine players out. The numbers are a little deceptive, however, as the only players with long-term diagnoses are Alex McCarthy (hamstring) and Jeremy Pied, who has a knee problem. The likelihood is that the Saints’ sickroom will be a lot less crowded by Saturday.

Southampton have lost their last two on the bounce, against Chelsea and Hull, going winless since the middle of October. The home fixture on Saturday does work in their favour (Chelsea was their first home loss since February, when, oddly enough, they lost 1-2 to the same side) but the high-scoring Liverpool are on form and they’ve beaten the Saints in three of their last four Premier League encounters.

The big news in the Liverpool camp this week is the injury Adam Lallana picked up in England’s friendly against Spain on Tuesday. He will definitely miss Saturday’s game. His absence presents Liverpool with an opportunity to give a start to career sub, Divock Origi, or push Gini Wijnaldum forward. There’s also the option of Daniel Sturridge, who hasn’t scored yet this season.

Prediction: 1-0 Liverpool, the Saints’ home advantage preventing disaster.

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