Southampton travel to the East Midlands to take on Frank Lampard’s Derby County in the 3rd round of the FA Cup on Saturday in a game that has been debated amongst the Saints fans regarding its importance.
The Saints ended their recent rut, which saw back-to-back home defeats in the space of just three days after the disappointing 2-1 loss to West Ham and the expected defeat at the hands of the champions Manchester City with that particular ‘contest’ finishing 3-1 to the visitors, with a hard-earned point at Chelsea. The side that played at Stamford Bridge showed plenty of fight and determination to win the ball and play without fear, frustrating the hosts and therefore seeing the game finish all square with Southampton picking up their first league clean sheet in over two months.
However, before Christmas, Southampton had won back-to-back games against Arsenal and Huddersfield which does make fans believe that the side is still in a good way. In fact, whilst Ralph Hasenhuttl has been in charge, Southampton have picked up seven points from a possible eighteen, and when you think that three of those six games were against the top six and that all six games were played in the space of 25 days, it isn’t a bad return.
As for the hosts, Derby have had a solid season so far and one that you’d probably expect of the usual play-off hopefuls. However, given that this is his first job in senior management, Frank Lampard has made his side compact and a real test for any opposition, not just fellow Championship sides. By this, I’m referring to the Rams’ success in the League Cup earlier this season at Old Trafford, as they beat an underwhelming Manchester United side on penalties after a 2-2 draw in normal time. Lampard also took his team back to where he made his career as a player as they narrowly lost 3-2 at Stamford Bridge at the hands of Chelsea.
In terms of their league campaign, Derby currently sit sixth and have been amongst those in the play-off spots for the vast majority of the season. Their most recent result was a home stalemate against fellow play-off hopefuls Middlesbrough which ended one apiece.
Loanees Mason Mount and Harry Wilson have been superb for Derby this season, scoring 16 goals in all competitions between them. If the Rams are to continue their push for promotion, then the two youngsters will definitely prove pivotal for the rest of the campaign.
The Southampton fan base has been divided this week regarding whether the game should be written off by Hasenhuttl or not given the fact that the team are in the relegation zone and need to stray away from danger in the Premier League as soon as possible.
As fans, despite poor league campaigns of late, we’ve been spoiled with the cup runs, getting to the quarter-final of the League Cup in both seasons under Koeman as well as reaching the final 2017; and of course, we ended up as semi-finalists in this particular competition only last season. For me, I always enjoy a cup run and we should do whatever we can to win the game.
Southampton will be without Pierre Hojbjerg for another game as he continues to serve his suspension following his red card vs Manchester City. However, Maya Yoshida will miss out given his involvement in the Asia Cup, which won’t see him return to Premier League action, most likely, until early February.
However, Hasenhuttl has been involving youth players recently, giving debuts to Tyreke Johnson and Kayne Ramsay as well as putting Callum Slattery on the bench at Chelsea on Wednesday night.
It’d be great to see some more youngsters be given a chance, especially with some key players likely to be suffering from fatigue after a hectic festive schedule in the league, the likes of Redmond, Ings, Armstrong etc.
One guaranteed starter is goalkeeper Angus Gunn, who made his Premier League debut on Wednesday night, keeping a clean sheet in the process. The 22-year-old is, according to the Daily Echo, being checked out by Hasenhuttl and therefore he will retain his place in goal on Saturday as he pushes Alex McCarthy for the number one spot.
I think it will be a tougher game than some fans are expecting. Derby are one of the standout sides in the Championship this season. Despite not having as good of a team as us they do have a winning mentality whereas we don’t, given the vast difference in league wins tallied by the two sides, albeit in different divisions.
For the last three seasons now, we’ve started our FA Cup campaigns away at Championship sides, with games against Norwich City and Fulham before this encounter. The game at Carrow Road, of course, ended 2-2 and went to a replay whereas last season James Ward-Prowse’s goal was enough to separate the two sides at Craven Cottage.
Personally, a draw for me wouldn’t be the worse result but it would mean a replay which is something neither team needs after respective busy schedules. I can see this being a very open game but I’ll stay positive and go for a 2-0 Southampton win!
LAST FIVE RESULTS
Derby 1-1 Middlesbrough – Championship
Norwich City 3-4 Derby – Championship
Sheffield United 3-1 Derby – Championship
Derby 1-1 Bristol City – Championship
Derby 0-0 Nottingham Forest – Championship
Chelsea 0-0 Southampton – Premier League
Southampton 1-3 Manchester City – Premier League
Southampton 1-2 West Ham – Premier League
Huddersfield Town 1-3 Southampton – Premier League
Southampton 3-2 Arsenal – Premier League