Paul Merson predicts Liverpool to blow top-four race wide open at Southampton

The former England midfielder believes Brendan Rodgers' side will continue their fine run of form when they travel to St Mary's on Sunday afternoon.

Writing in his Sky Sports prediction column, Paul Merson believes Liverpool will continue their nine-match unbeaten run in the Premier League when they visit high-flying Southampton on Sunday afternoon.

The match poses a crucial one in the chase for a Champions League spot, with a win for Liverpool moving them to within a point of fourth-placed Southampton with 12 games left.

Ronald Koeman’s side have managed to battle the odds to keep themselves in top-four contention since the start of the season, losing just once in their past nine league matches, despite injuries piling up in recent months.

The Saints could also be set to receive a timely boost for the weekend, with both Morgan Schneiderlin and Shane Long in line to return for the team which as conceded a division-low 17 goals in their 25 matches.

There is added spice to the fixture, too, due to Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren all returning to St Mary’s, with the latter two having played a role in Thursday night’s 1-0 Europa League win over Besiktas.

The home side will be hoping there’s a European hangover lingering but, with Liverpool suffering just one defeat in 17 league and cup games since their December shift to a 3-4-3 formation, Merson is backing Brendan Rodgers’ visitors to eke out a narrow 2-1 win.

“Southampton have got a few injuries and, with Liverpool on a bit of a roll at the moment, Brendan Rodgers’ side can take advantage with a victory that will blow the race for the top four wide open,” he wrote.

“With Manchester United struggling, I really believe Rodgers can guide Liverpool into the top four and reach the Champions League again.

“On the other hand, if Southampton can win this they will have a huge chance of finishing the season in the top four, but for me they are not as fluent as they were at the start of the season.

“The goals have dried up a bit and they’ve picked up injuries to some key players. Liverpool are flying and I see them picking up a vital win.”

Register for LIVERPOOL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch