Southampton will be looking to win for the first time in five games in all competitions when they make the trip to South London to face Crystal Palace, who they were paired with in Monday’s FA Cup third round draw.
The Eagles had to do a lot of defending in their last game at Everton, coming under severe second half pressure only to take the lead with only 13 minutes remaining. The scorer of that goal, Scott Dann, had been heroic at the back alongside Damien Delaney, but he his teammates could not quite hold on for what would have been another highly impressive victory. Even so, it was still a pleasing result for manager Alan Pardew, who knows his side can compete against any side in the Premier League.
Yannick Bolasie again provided evidence of the attacking threat he carries, but one concern for Pardew will be the lack of goals from his strikers, particularly when he has so many at his disposal. Connor Wickham – whose hold-up play at Goodison Park was exemplary – has been the man in favour of late, but has not found the net since his summer arrival from Sunderland. Having recovered from a long-term injury, this may be a game for Marouane Chamakh.
Whoever it is that leads the line, they will come up against a Southampton defence will be low on confidence in the wake of some disappointing results, especially the thrashing by Liverpool in the Capital One Cup. They ended up scrambling to pick up a point against rock-bottom Aston Villa last weekend in a game where they missed a succession of chances before going on to concede a very poor goal from a corner which should have been comfortably dealt with.
While they were playing so well before the international break, the Saints now find themselves in a bit of a rut and could do with collecting a positive result as soon as possible, having slipped into the bottom half of the table. Manager Ronald Koeman should see no reason to panic, but he still seems to be trying to find the correct balance for his team, who are certainly not as secure at the back as they were last season. This will a be a big test of their resolve, coming up against a vibrant attacking force.
Bakary Sako remains unavailable for Crystal Palace, who have been hit by injuries to striker Dwight Gayle and captain Mile Jedinak/
The away side have Victor Wanyama available despite the Kenyan having been forced off against Aston Villa. They have no new injury concerns.
Last Meeting: Southampton claimed a comfortable victory on Boxing Day 2014 in what turned out to be Neil Warnock’s final game in charge of the hosts. The deadlock was broken by Sadio Mane, who rounded Julian Speroni to score, before Ryan Bertrand fired in and Toby Alderweireld headed in to put the outcome beyond doubt. Scott Dann scored a consolation for Palace following Mile Jedinak’s free-kick.