Aston Villa will guarantee top-flight safety if they can continue their storming recent run with victory over Europa League hopefuls Southampton.
There have been precious few below-par performances from the Saints this season, but a failure to match the determination of resurgent Leicester City saw them fall to a comfortable defeat in their last game. They have tailed off of late, so manager Ronald Koeman will be demanding a strong end to a fine first year in charge.
This could turn out to be Nathaniel Clyne’s final outing at the St. Mary’s Stadium as a Southampton player, despite his recent comments stating that he would be happy to stay. Here, he will take on Kieran Richardson, who has found his best form for some years on the Villa left.
It promises to be an open and entertaining affair, with Tim Sherwood’s transformation of the visitors showing no sign of coming to an end in the near future. The win over West Ham United was a little less pretty than some of their other recent efforts, but another Tom Cleverley goal earned them another much deserved three points.
The Manchester United loanee has his confidence back, while youngster Jack Grealish is thriving through Sherwood’s attacking philosophy. Should survival be confirmed on Saturday, it would complete a remarkable recovery, as they looked relegation fodder until the end of January.
Southampton remain without several players including midfielders Dusan Tadic and Morgan Schneiderlin, goalkeeper Fraser Forster, and striker Jay Rodriguez.
Like Rodriguez, Villa’s Libor Kozak is likely to go an entire season without featuring, with Nathan Baker and Ciaran Clark accompanying the Czech on the injury list.
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