Southampton will be aiming to follow on from their amazing Boxing Day success over Arsenal as they take on another London club in West Ham United, who have drawn each of their last five matches.
Mainly as a consequence of injuries to several key players, the home side have lost a lot of the dynamism and flair that characterised their performances in the early weeks of the season, and so they now occupy a place in mid-table having not won in two months. A lot of the optimism which built up around the club is fading, but the Hammers do deserve credit for remaining hard to beat at this time even if the entertainment value within their play has decreased somewhat of late.
One player who has returned to fitness recently is Alexandre Song, who has provided strong protection for the back four in helping West Ham pick up points from their two away games so far during the festive period. His influence certainly restricted lowly Aston Villa to relatively few chances on Boxing Day, and although a penalty was to peg them back in that one, it was clear that Song’s assured presence added more tenacity to their midfield.
And they will definitely need to see that again here as he comes up against Victor Wanyama, who was simply immense as Southampton emphatically upset the form book with a resounding win over the title hopefuls of Arsenal on Boxing Day. The Kenyan constantly broke up the play and enabled the likes of Sadio Mane and Shane Long to do the damage after a stunning strike from defender Cuco Martina – making his full Premier League debut – gave them the lead.
It was a moment that nobody saw coming as the summer signing from FC Twente bent the ball in with an almost nonchalant swing of his right boot from 30 yards out, and more importantly it gave the out-of-form Saints the initiative, enabling to catch the away side out as they pushed for a way back into the game. Long had a great evening and made his case to start on a more regular basis, but more importantly the result and the manner in which it was achieved will have filled the team with renewed confidence and they will not fear West Ham.
Home boss Slaven Bilic is still unable to call upon Winston Reid, Diafra Sakho, Manuel Lanzini, Victor Moses and Dimiti Payet, while to make matters worse defenders Aaron Cresswell and James Tomkins are both doubtful.
Long will remain in the Southampton side as they are still without Graziano Pelle. Right-back Cedric Soares is also missing due to a groin injury.
Last Meeting: Southampton gained their first Premier League win under Ronald Koeman in August 2014 as his side came from behind to dispatch West Ham in comprehensive fashion. Mark Noble put the hosts in front when his shot was deflected past Fraser Forster, but then Morgan Schneiderlin took centre stage and he scored twice to secure a dominant victory for the Saints before Graziano Pelle wrapped it up with the third.
Played for both – Luis Boa Morte: The Portugal international winger had an unsuccessful spell at Southampton during the 1999-00 season, making just 14 league appearances and scoring once, but he was much more of a mainstay at West Ham between 2007 and 2011. He helped the club to two top half finishes in making a total of 91 league appearances, during which time he scored twice.
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