On Saturday Saints make the short trip down the south-coast to face neighbours Brighton in a huge game down at the bottom of the Premier League table. After a three week break from competitive action, will it be a case of complacency or freshness for the Southampton side?
It’s been three weeks since Southampton last played a competitive match, that infamous 2-1 win at home to Tottenham at St.Mary’s. The win over ex-manager Mauricio Potchettino’s side saw the end of what was three considerably strong performances with the 2-0 win over Fulham and the 3-2 defeat at Manchester United, which warranted more, the other games making up the fold.
Whilst Southampton have been out of competitive action, training resumed as normal for the whole squad, with a behind closed doors friendly being played at Staplewood against Championship outfit QPR, with Southampton winning 3-2, and those with international commitments flew out to represent their respective national sides.
Jan Bednarek, Pierre Hojbjerg and James Ward-Prowse were just a few names who left Staplewood to represent their countries but there’ve been no reports of injuries to any of our internationals, meaning that Ralph Hasenhuttl should have a large pool of players to select for Saturday’s game.
Hopefully, one of those players in the starting line-up will be Danny Ings, who hasn’t featured for Southampton in almost two months after getting injured up at Turf Moor in the stalemate against Burnley.
Goal contributions from strikers have been rare of late and so to have Ings back in the starting line-up, fresh and raring to go, will be a major asset for us at the Amex.
Moving on to our opponents, Brighton have had a fairly mixed season. The campaign got off to a fantastic start with that 3-2 win over Manchester United in their first home game of the season, closely followed by their comeback from 2-0 down at St.Mary’s to draw 2-2 the last time the sides met.
Their start to the year wasn’t fantastic, with a 3-1 home defeat to Burnley being one of the standout poor results, which saw them drift back towards the dreaded drop zone.
In fairness to the seagulls, form has picked up in recent weeks with the crucial 1-0 victory over Huddersfield as well as the derby win at Selhurst Park as they saw off their fiercest rivals Crystal Palace 2-1 thanks to a stunning strike from Anthony Knockaert late on.
Most recently, however, they managed to complete arguably the comeback of the season as they revived themselves very late on in their FA Cup quarter-final clash with Millwall at the Den with two goals in added time to force extra-time, which eventually saw the Premier League outfit win on penalties.
Because of this success, the Albion fans will in very high spirits, roaring on their players as a win will put them in very good stead to book their place in next season’s Premier League.
Southampton just need to stay in the game and remain calm and collective. A draw would be a decent result as it would keep Saints out of the bottom three, even if results don’t go our way, but would also keep Brighton close-by, who’re three points ahead of Southampton with a game in hand and a superior goal difference.
But a win would be incredible for many obvious reasons, with the fact that it would be a major step in the right direction for securing Premier League survival the standout factor.
Southampton are set to welcome back Danny Ings and may even include Mario Lemina in the squad for the first time this year after an abdominal problem has kept the midfielder out of action for a lengthy period of time.
There’ve been no reported injuries for those who were in competitive action for their native sides, with the latest fixtures being played on Tuesday night; Hasenhuttl should have a relatively fresh squad at his disposal.
As for Brighton, Chris Hughton seems to also have almost 100% of his first-team squad available to him ahead of Saturday’s crunch clash down in Sussex.
When it comes to games against Southampton, this man is the obvious choice for key threat. The veteran striker has plenty of goals to his name against Southampton, scoring in all three Premier League meetings between the two sides. The striker hasn’t seen too much action of late but did score Brighton’s first goal at Selhurst Park last time out in the league. Whether he starts or comes off of the bench, Murray will be a consistent threat for the Southampton defence to deal with.
The Frenchman didn’t have the best of seasons last year for Albion, especially after his stellar campaign in the Championship the year before. However, this season, despite only having two Premier League goals to his name, the winger has got six assists in the league this season. What this means is simple, we just have to close him down at all times to prevent the 27 year-old from putting in an inviting cross for a Brighton player to latch on to.
The summer signing from Deportivo has popped up with some important goals this season for Brighton, with his header against Huddersfield being the latest addition to his tally which saw Brighton crucially defeat the Premier League’s rock-bottom side 1-0. The Romanian has been of favour in place of Murray recently, proving his value to this Brighton side so, if the 25-year-old is to start on Saturday, the Southampton defence will have to keep a wary eye.
Last Five Results:
Millwall 2-2 Brighton (AET) – Brighton win 5-4 on penalties – FA Cup Quarter-Final
Crystal Palace 1-2 Brighton – Premier League
Brighton 1-0 Huddersfield Town – Premier League
Leicester City 2-1 Brighton – Premier League
Brighton 2-1 Derby County – FA Cup 5th Round
Southampton 2-1 Tottenham – Premier League
Manchester United 3-2 Southampton – Premier League
Southampton 2-0 Fulham – Premier League
Arsenal 2-0 Southampton – Premier League
Southampton 1-2 Cardiff City – Premier League
I can see the game being incredibly tight and somewhat scrappy. We’re clearly good enough to win the game but I can see this ending up goalless and, if either side are to win, it’ll be by the single goal. Nonetheless, I’ll remain optimistic and go for a 1-0 win to Southampton which will prove a massive result in our survival push!