Southampton vs Tottenham Hotspur
Venue: St. Mary’s
Referee: Kevin Friend
Third place Spurs travel to St. Mary’s this Saturday to take on 17th place Southampton in an attempt to further secure their place in the Champions League for next season, as the Premier League title looks beyond achievable for Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
Southampton have only won one of their games in the previous 13 meetings with Spurs, with their last win coming in May of 2016 – a stat that doesn’t favour the side on the South Coast. Pochettino will be eager to do the double over the Saints after their convincing 3-1 win earlier this season.
Before the 27th of February, Spurs were only three points behind Manchester City and were causing the two sides at the top of the table some serious concerns. However, barring their excellent performance in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund, they have massively slipped up. Spurs have only managed to accumulate four points from their last four games in the league, dropping points to London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea and also Burnley.
Games against their rivals will always be difficult fixtures and dropping points could be excused. But for a side pushing for trophies, Burnley should be among the sides that are being comfortably beaten by Pochettino’s men. They now sit nine points behind Liverpool and 10 behind leaders Manchester City so naturally their focus should now be on the teams fighting for the Champions League positions.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s incredible run with Manchester United has catapulted them into fourth position, now only three points behind Tottenham. With Arsenal only a point behind United, the end of the season could be an interesting one, from the top of the league all the way down to the relegation battle, a battle which Southampton find themselves in.
Southampton have been toying with the relegation zone all season, only recently emerging after their incredibly important 2-0 win over Fulham, a result that put the nail in the coffin for Premier League winner Claudio Ranieri. There is no question that the Saints have been playing more attractive football since the appointment of Ralph Hasenhuttl, however, the results just haven’t seemed to come for the Austrian.
Last weekend’s result against Manchester United may have left a sour taste in the mouths of anyone associated with Southampton Football Club, an antecedent for a vengeful performance this weekend, perhaps. Despite their horrendous record against Spurs in the league, their last encounter at St. Marys resulted in a 1-1 draw, while under Manuel Pellegrino. Hasenhuttl will not be concerned with the stats, however, and will look to build on his side’s previous performance and collect a huge three points that could lift them above Burnley in to 16th place, depending on results.
Southampton: Southampton will be without top goal scorer Danny Ings this weekend through an injury sustained last month. The Englishman has been painfully unlucky with injuries in his career and during his three years at Liverpool, he only managed to make an appearance 25 times, scoring only four goals, which will be hugely disappointing considering his potential. His 2013/14 season will be what Southampton hope they can revive, scoring 26 goals and winning Championship player of the year, providing they can keep him fit.
Another ‘proven goal scorer’ that has had a bitterly disappointing season is Charlie Austin, who in 22 appearances has only managed to score three goals. The lack of goals from these two has allowed others to take a shine – others such as Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse. Redmond has scored six goals this season, which is five more than the whole of last season combined and Ward-Prowse has scored five in his last nine appearances, which is more than he has ever scored in a season as a professional. A huge turnaround for the young England prospect.
Maya Yoshida will be expected to start after returning from the Asia cup and immediately making a difference keeping a clean sheet against Fulham, alongside Ryan Bertrand who has recovered from injury. Mario Lemina is back in training but will not be available for this weekend’s fixtures, as well as Michael Obafemi.
Tottenham: Spurs will be on a huge high after defeating current German leaders Borussia Dortmund, 4-0 on aggregate, in the Champions League during the week. Harry Kane sealed the deal in a 1-0 victory and will be hungry to increase his Premier League tally. The English frontman has 16 goals in the Premier League so far this season and will be desperate to catch up to Man City’s Sergio Aguero after being second in the Golden Boot last season behind Mohammad Salah.
Harry Winks and Dele Alli are the only main injury concerns for Spurs, and after being back to training, fans will be keen for the reintroduction of Alli, considering their recent form. Another Asia Cup reintroduction has pleased the other set of fans in this fixture in the form of Heung Min Son. The South Korean has scored 11 goals in 23 appearances in the league this year and always looks like a threat for Spurs. The combination of Kane and Son may well be enough to see Southampton off.
Predicted Starting XIs
Southampton (3-4-2-1): Gunn; Bednarek, Vestergaard, Yoshida; Valery, Hojbjerg, Romeu, Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Armstrong; Redmond.
Tottenham (3-4-2-1): Lloris; Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen; Trippier, Eriksen, Sissoko, Rose; Son, Lucas; Kane.
Score Prediction: Southampton 2 Spurs 1
Southampton were painfully close in their previous game and will come out with a burning desire to succeed. The importance of this game in terms of the relegation battle may supersede the importance of staying above Arsenal. Providing the fans get behind the Saints, a passionate affair could result in a major upset as Saints push for Safety.