Philippe Coutinho has been in quite some form of late, bagging Liverpool’s player of the month awards for both December and January. Away at Southampton he will face what is potentially his biggest challenge in the league since the turn of the year in the shape of Morgan Schneiderlin. The Frenchman has been one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League this season and has been a vital piece of Southampton’s sturdy defence. The Saints have only leaked 17 goals this season – the best record in the division – and that comes in part due to the wonderful protection Schneiderlin provides to the back line. It will be Coutinho’s task to break that shield with his magic touch and accurate through-balls and the Brazilian better be at his best if his side are to get a goal at St Mary’s.
With Southampton struggling to find goals at the moment, their best bet to win the match would be keeping a clean sheet. The fact that they have kept 10 in 25 league games this season should be a massive encouragement. While those in front of him have been robust, it is always comforting knowing that the last line of defence can always be relied upon. When the defenders have been breached, Fraser Forster has stood firm. On the other side of the coin, there’s a striker as hungry as ever, eager to make up for lost time, Daniel Sturridge. He’s scored twice since his return from injury late last month, and is looking sharper by the game. More importantly he is clicking with Mario Balotelli and the promise that the partnership showed in August is finally starting to come to fruition.
Arguably the league’s best left-back, Ryan Bertrand, will be pitted against England’s trickiest wingers in the form of Raheem Sterling. The contest should be absorbing and the winner will play a large part in the outcome of the match itself. Bertrand has been an important asset for Southampton going forward this season, but there is no doubt that the threat of Sterling should keep him pegged back. Luckily for Southampton, Bertrand is more than capable of holding his own at the back. Sterling should pose a more direct, different kind of threat than Bertrand is used to. So, while it will be interesting to see how the Southampton man copes, his previous display in big games suggest he has what it takes.
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