Southampton once again travel to the East Midlands on Saturday, this time to face Leicester City as they return to Premier League action in a game where three points could fish them out of the bottom three against a side who were embarrassed with a FA Cup exit thanks to League 2 Newport County.
Ralph Hasenhuttl take his side to face former manager Claude Puel’s Leicester City side, knowing full well that a win could lift his side out of the relegation zone ahead of a run of winnable fixtures. After the trip to the King Power, Southampton host Everton and Crystal Palace in the Premier League before a trip to Burnley and another home game against Cardiff City.
These five games are all winnable for the Saints, but consistently maintaining a high-performance level will be key if they are to pick up a decent amount of points from the run.
As for Saturday’s opponent, Leicester were victim of the biggest ‘cupset’ last weekend as they were at the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline away at League 2 side Newport County. Manager Puel was criticised for his team selection, with a great amount of rotation that we as Saints fans became too familiar with during his brief tenure down on the south-coast.
This could mean, however, that Leicester will be able to field a stronger side when they host Southampton on Saturday.
Bar that defeat in the cup, the Foxes haven’t had a bad festive run. 1-0 wins away at Chelsea and Everton as well as a 2-1 home victory over Manchester City came alongside a 1-0 defeat to Premier League strugglers Cardiff City, who scored an injury-time winner, a result that didn’t help Southampton, and of course that FA Cup nightmare.
Those results mean that Leicester currently sit as they’re the side who’re ‘better than the rest’ in 7th, but are only four points above the bottom half of the table.
Games at the King Power haven’t proved successful for the Saints. In the five games in which we’ve played them away since their promotion back into the Premier League (four in the league and one in the League Cup back in November), we haven’t scored a single goal, losing twice and earning three goalless draws.
However, there’s a decent chance that Southampton can end that unwanted record on Saturday with winger Nathan Redmond in red-hot form! The 24-year old has scored four goals in his last five games, picking up a few assists in the meantime as well, meaning that he will be our focal threat on Saturday with the absence of Danny Ings.
As just mentioned, top-scorer Danny Ings will miss the game after picking up a hamstring injury in the first half against Chelsea last Wednesday; the striker is expected to be available for the Everton game next weekend though. Michael Obafemi will also miss out and the game comes too soon for captain Ryan Bertrand who did return to training this week. Maya Yoshida is missing due to his Asian Cup commitments and Hojbjerg continues his suspension.
As for the hosts, Jamie Vardy looks set to return and could make up a very strong side that will cause Southampton problems all over the pitch.
I do think it will be a tight game, one that could be decided by just the single goal. Leicester really need a reaction after that FA Cup defeat and a home game against one of the minnow sides of the Premier League will be seen as a good chance in which to do so.
However, I feel we will cause Leicester problems and may run away with it. I won’t get too ahead of myself though and will predict a 1-1 draw with Nathan Redmond adding to his recent influx of goals.
PREVIOUS FIVE RESULTS:
Newport County 2-1 Leicester City – FA Cup 3rd Round
Everton 0-1 Leicester City – Premier League
Leicester City 0-1 Cardiff City – Premier League
Leicester City 2-1 Manchester City – Premier League
Chelsea 0-1 Leicester City – Premier League
Derby County 2-2 Southampton – FA Cup 3rd Round
Chelsea 0-0 Southampton – Premier League
Southampton 1-3 Manchester City – Premier League
Southampton 1-2 West Ham – Premier League
Huddersfield 1-3 Southampton – Premier League