Still in contention for a place in next season’s Europa League despite lacklustre performances in recent weeks, the Saints will be looking to end their winless streak, which has lasted for more than a month, when they host the Villans at St. Mary’s tomorrow afternoon. However, a win for the visiting Villans would guarantee their Premier League survival, allowing Tim Sherwood to begin preparing for the FA Cup final.
Having held the Saints to a 1-1 draw at Villa Park back in November and having lost only once to the Saints in the last six meetings between the sides, confidence will be high in the claret and blue camp under the impressively energetic Sherwood, who has done a sterling job of steering his side towards safety and who will be determined not to fail at the final hurdles.
With the Saints seemingly happier to drop points and avoid the Europa League than fight for a place in it and the Villans within touching distance of safety, I would expect Sherwood to have his players fired up for this crunch clash. At the very least, it is an interesting match-up and we can expect an intense battle between Southampton’s captain Jose Fonte and Christian Benteke, with Tom Cleverley hopefully ready to continue his recent resurgence.
Southampton: L W L D L
Aston Villa: W W L W D
Nathan Baker, who has been suffering with a knee injury, is back in training but unlikely to be fit enough to play any part in tomorrow’s game.
Ciaran Clark (knee), Chris Herd (knee) and Libor Kozak (leg) will remain on the sidelines.
With their loan spells having ended, Gary Gardner and Callum Robinson have been training with the first team and could feature in the match day squad.
Bacuna Vlaar Okore Richardson
Westwood Cleverley Delph
In a season that promised so much for so long, recent weeks must seem like a trial to Koeman although, having lost four and won just one of their last six matches, it could be argued that the Dutchman and his players do not want the scant consolation of playing in the Europa League. To most, securing a spot in the Europa League would signal progress in Koeman’s first season at Southampton but the Saints will need to improve their recent form and stop struggling in front of goal if they are to catch Spurs.
Koeman, who has bemoaned his side’s injuries, has no fresh injury concerns to contend with.
Jay Rodriguez is thought to be nearing a return to fitness but will not feature tomorrow.
James Ward-Prowse will return from suspension.
Koeman, like his counterpart, will have to think carefully about who to play between the sticks, following an anxious performance from Paul Gazzaniga last weekend.
Referee: Robert Madley
Venue: St. Mary’s
Tickets: The away allocation has sold out
Last meeting: 24th November 2014: Aston Villa 1 – Southampton 1
1-1 – Mark Lawrenson
2-1 – Paul Merson
2-1 – AnneMc