Southampton vs AFC Bournemouth
Venue: St. Mary’s
Referee: Graham Scott
Southampton will look to virtually guarantee their safety this weekend with three points in the South Coast derby against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.
Six points currently separate Southampton from Cardiff City who sit in the final spot in the relegation zone, a buffer that would probably see them safe. However, three points would certainly settle the nerves and pile the pressure on to Neil Warnock and his men to get a result against Fulham this weekend.
Brighton have also become part of the buffer zone for the Saints as they now only sit three points ahead of Cardiff with three games remaining, one of which includes Manchester City. While Southampton can take a slight bit of a breather, they can not switch off as both Cardiff and Brighton will look to fight to the end for Premier League survival.
Chris Hughton will have a lot to worry about as his side have been unable to register a win in their last six Premier League games with one of those defeats falling to the hands of Cardiff.
Bournemouth haven’t exactly been flying this season but their 12 wins and five draws so far have been enough to keep them just out of reach to be considered relegation candidates. Only four points separate Southampton and Bournemouth at this stage of the season and the Saints have been deemed as having a terrible season whereas Bournemouth have been relatively unmentioned.
Three points for the Cherries could elevate them into 11th place depending on the surrounding results but Europa League qualification is now out of the question in what can only be described as a mediocre season for Eddie Howe’s men.
A win for the Saints would bring them to within one point of Bournemouth, and considering their horrendous start to the season, finishing above 15th place can only be seen as a huge victory for Ralph Hasenhuttl and the players involved at the club, laying a firm foundation for next season.
The two clubs have met a total of seven times in the Premier League with the Saints coming out on top three times and the Cherries once. Bournemouth have never won at St. Mary’s in the Premier League and their best result came in the form of a 0-0 draw in April 2017.
However, a draw isn’t looking likely as Bournemouth’s last 20 away games have failed to produce one (W6 – L14) and St. Mary’s looks brand new under Hasenhuttl, so Howe’s men will inevitably be in for a tough game.
In their last five Premier League outings, the Saints have split the points evenly, winning two, losing two and drawing once.
They will be more than frustrated with their point in the mid-week fixture against Watford as Shane Long scored the fastest goal in Premier League history (7.69s) to go 1-0 up and it remained that way until the 90th minute, where a horrendous touch bounced luckily into the path of Andre Gray who made no mistake with the finish.
A good away point however, that just shows the contrast compared to earlier on in the season – this side are disappointed at not getting three points away from home.
The Saints will still be without Michael Obafemi and Jannik Vestergaard due to hamstring injuries sustained earlier on in the season, but more recently Ryan Bertrand and Stuart Armstrong are doubts due to an ankle injury and hamstring strain respectively.
Matt Targett has recovered from his muscle injury which kept him out of the squad for almost half the season, so maybe this is his chance to prove to Hasenhuttl how valuable he is to the side.
The Austrian will have a difficult choice in choosing the starting striker as Shane Long has scored three goals in his last four games after scoring two in his last 30. A striker in-form is what a side in Southampton’s position desperately needs, and whilst Danny Ings may have the technical ability over Long, the work rate and effort that the Irishman provides is invaluable.
The Cherries will look to redeem themselves after their shock home defeat to Fulham, a result that has epitomised their recent form.
Bournemouth have only won one of their last five games and it was an absolute drubbing of Brighton, who are now firmly in the race for Premier League survival, but their other results have been relatively disappointing.
Adam Smith will miss this Saturday’s match with a knock picked up during the week, while the Cherries’ major concerns lie with Junior Stanislas who will face up to five months of recovery and treatment on a knee injury. Bournemouth will still be without long term injuries Lewis Cook, Simon Francis, Charlie Daniels, Diego Rico and Andrew Surman.
Predicted Starting XIs
Southampton (3-5-2): Gunn; Bednarek, Stephens, Yoshida; Valery, Lemina, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Targett; Redmond, Long.
Bournemouth (4-4-1-1): Boruc; Mepham, Cook, Simpson, Ake; Brooks, Gosling, Lerma, Fraser; King; Wilson.
Prediction: Southampton 3-1 Bournemouth
Bournemouth’s away form against the Saints will undoubtedly play a part in the psychology of Eddie Howe’s side, and the Saints’ defence has to rise to the task in the absence of Vestergaard. With his confidence high I think that Long will score in his third consecutive home game for the first time in his career. The win will come for the Saints, but not without some immense pressure from Bournemouth’s frontmen.