Mauricio Pochettino has a major dilemma on his hands this weekend.
The Saints boss must decide whether to reform his miserly centre half pairing of Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren in a bid to keep Liverpool’s prolific strikers quiet at St Mary’s on Saturday tea-time.
Ever since £8.5m Croatian international defender Lovren arrived last summer, he and Fonte have forged a fantastic partnership to rival the last great Saints pairing of Michael Svensson and Claus Lundekvam.
The Swede and the Norwegian helped Saints to a best placed eighth finish in the Premier League and an FA Cup final in 2002/03.
Lovren admitted in the Daily Echo this week that he and his teammates, including Portuguese defender Fonte, have their sights still set on a possible sixth place finish.
Lovren also confessed that, if they are to do that, then there is little margin for error in the final 11 games of the season – starting with Liverpool this weekend.
Saints will need to keep quiet Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, who have a remarkable 41 goals between them in the Premier League this season.
It is a massive ask but not one that is beyond them.
The pair kept out Sturridge in the 1-0 win at Anfield last September, with Lovren scoring the winner.
The statistics underline that Pochettino’s first choice pairing have been brilliant this season.
They have played together in 17 of Saints’ 27 league games so far and have conceded the same number of goals as the other pairings have done in just ten outings.
The 16 goals leaked in just 17 games together means the team have conceded an average of just 0.94 goals per game when Lovren and Fonte have been playing.
The 16 goals in ten games that have been conceded by other centre half pairings – mainly Fonte and Yoshida, who have had six games together equates to an average of 1.6 goals per game.
Svensson and Lundekvam averaged 1.02 goals against in the 48 Premier League games they started together between September 2002 and March 2004.
During their time together, Saints only conceded 49 goals, keeping 17 clean sheets and conceding more than two goals only twice.
First, though, Lovren must win a recall to the Saints side.
He hasn’t started a game since being carried off with an ankle injury at Sunderland on January 18.
He was back on the bench for the game at West Ham last weekend which ended in a 3-1 defeat with Lovren’s replacement, Maya Yoshida, scoring the Saints goal.
“We will need to assess his fitness and also Gaston (Ramirez) who actually came onto the pitch,” said Pochettino after the loss at Upton Park.
“They are both fully recovered but they will have to fight to get their place back in the team.”