Southampton will be hoping to avoid a fourth successive loss in all competitions when they come up against an Aston Villa team which is already seven points adrift of safety and has not won since opening day.
In their last home league match at home to Stoke City, Ronald Koeman’s men lacked the necessary invention to penetrate an organised backline and created few chances as a result, but it was their play at the other end of the pitch which let them down at Manchester City a week ago. The Saints are not often cited for their weak defending, but they made a lot of errors and stray passes and gave themselves a mountain to climb by going two goals behind inside 20 minutes.
In fairness, they put up much more of a fight in the second half as Shane Long made the most of a rare start by pulling a goal back, and it seemed at that point that they were the more likely to go on and grab an equaliser as it became the turn of the City defence to look rattled, but a quick breakaway extinguished those hopes.
And then came a chastening night in the Capital One Cup against Liverpool. Despite taking the lead within a minute, they were simply blasted away by some amazing attacking football to lose 6-1, and so will come into this feeling somewhat demoralised. They will expect to return to form here in a match that Sadio Mane will relish more than most after his stunning exploits in this fixture last season.
The former Red Bull Salzburg star will surely be fancying his chances of finding the net, especially with Villa having conceded seven goals in their previous two matches thanks mainly to a series of defensive lapses and arguably a lack of leadership. They have just five points from 14 games, a position from which no side has avoided relegation from the Premier League, so Remi Garde will really need to work miracles if he is to keep his floundering giant of a club from going down.
Last time out against Watford their frailties were exposed yet again as a failure to clear their lines saw them concede the opener and, after drawing level through a goal that should have been ruled out for offside, contrived to gift the game away as Alan Hutton haplessly turned the ball into his own net and Troy Deeney took advantage of static defending to put the game beyond doubt. Although Jordan Ayew is in reasonable form in attack, if more mistakes are made here, there will be only one outcome.
Fraser Foster, Florin Gardos and Jay Rodriguez are all long-term absentees for Southampton, who still have doubts over captain Jose Fonte. There may be a recall for Maya Yoshida, who did not feature against Liverpool.
Gabriel Agbonlahor makes a welcome return for Aston Villa, who could give a first appearance of the season to defender Jores Okore.
Last Meeting: A truly amazing three minutes saw Villa collapse defensively and give Sadio Mane the chance to score the fastest hat-trick in Premier League history, twice firing the ball into an unguarded net before picking out the top corner from the edge of the penalty area. Shane Long then netted twice – the second a spectacular strike – to make it 5-0, with Graziano Pelle rounding things off after Christian Benteke had netted a consolation.
Played for both – Kevin Richardson: A key player for Aston Villa in the early years of the Premier League, Richardson was captain as they finish second behind Manchester United in 1993 and when they defeated the Red Devils in the League Cup final the following year. Later in his career he spent the 1997-98 season with Southampton, making 28 league appearances without scoring.
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