Southampton vs Aston Villa
Venue: St. Mary’s
Referee: Craig Pawson
Ralph Hasenhuttl will be eager to move on from last weekend’s disappointing result at home to Burnley as the Saints welcome relegation-threatened Aston Villa.
Despite the gusty conditions, Sean Dyche and his men really took the wind out of Saints’ sails as their surge for the top half was halted. The Saints now sit three points behind both Burnley and Arsenal in 12th position but have only managed to accumulate eleven points at home this season, their lowest tally in the topflight since 1991-92 (10). They find themselves seven points away from the relegation zone and seven points away from seventh, heightening the importance of each result in relation to the battle they will find themselves in come the end of the season.
Aston Villa’s last win in the Premier League came at home to Watford almost a month ago which proved vital as they currently sit one point ahead of Watford, who sit in 19th position and Dean Smith will be acutely aware of the predicament his team face. One place ahead of the relegation zone and sitting only one point of West Ham and Watford puts pressure on the team as every single point will be vital in the bid to avoid relegation. However, since their last win against the Saints in December 2013, Villa have drawn three times and lost four to their hosts this weekend.
If there is a saving grace for Smith and his men, it is that Southampton have shipped 30 goals in their last 13 league home games, the most in as many home games in the top flight since Ipswich in 1962/63 (31), providing a perfect platform for an attacking display at St Mary’s this weekend.
Southampton will be without three of their starting XI this weekend as Kyle Walker-Peters is out with a calf injury sustained on his debut against Burnley whilst Nathan Redmond is expected to be out for as much as a month. His immediate replacement, Sofiane Boufal, is also out with a heel injury and has not trained this week so will not be expected to play this weekend.
Hasenhuttl will have to rejig his squad with the likely replacement for KWP to be James Ward-Prowse. This will allow Oriol Romeu to take up the midfield role beside Pierre Hojbjerg. The attacking position will likely be occupied by Moussa Djenepo, whose career has not yet kicked off at the Saints.
Danny Ings will always be the man to watch and after scoring his 15th Premier League goal last weekend, he joins an elite club of Saints who have scored 15 goals in the top-flight, including James Beattie and Matt le Tissier. However, all eyes will be on Shane Long, as in seven appearances against Villa, he has been directly involved in ten goals, scoring six and assisting four. The Irishman has been extremely active when he is on the field and his effort should reap greater rewards and this weekend could be the opportunity he needs to increase his tally for the season.
Villa could also be without some of their key players this weekend. Tyrone Mings missed last weekend’s game against Tottenham through tonsillitis and Smith hopes, but is not 100%, that Mings can come back in and secure a currently shaky defence.
John McGinn is still out with the ankle injury sustained in the last run out against Southampton whilst Wesley Moraes will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury alongside Tom Heaton. If Mings does not play Engels will be expected to play, with Samatta replacing Wesley.
Jack Grealish will be the man shining brightest on Hasenhuttl’s radar as the Englishman has created 68 chances this season, more than any other Englishman in the Premier League. His quality and ability are unquestionable, which was exemplified in the return fixture. Despite the Saints winning 3-1, Grealish made himself a nuisance and grabbed himself a fantastic goal.
Predicted Starting XIs
Southampton (4-4-2): McCarthy; JWP, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand; Romeu, Hojbjerg, Djenepo, Armstrong; Long, Ings
Aston Villa (3-4-3): Reina; Ngoyo, Mings, Hause; Guilbert, Nakamba, Luiz, Targett; El Ghazi, Samatta, Grealish
Score Prediction: Southampton 3-2 Aston Villa
Southampton will be keen to make right their mistake from last weekend and can punish the struggling Aston Villa, whose defence has been shaky, leaving themselves to be run ragged by Ings and Long.