Southampton will be aiming to collect their fifth win in six Premier League matches when they make the trip to South Wales to face Swansea City, who themselves have not lost in four outings.
Aspects of Swansea’s performance in their 1-1 draw at home to Crystal Palace last weekend suggested that they are regaining the fluency and expression that has characterised much of their current stay in the Premier League. It was a shame from their point of view that their superiority over the piece was not reflected in the result, but the early signs indicate that Francesco Guidolin may just be another shrewd appointment from chairman Huw Jenkins.
It is also a huge positive that Gylfi Sigurdsson has returned to top form, with the Icelander having scored several crucial goals over recent weeks, and he will be a key figure in helping the Swans steer themselves further clear from the bottom three. The gap currently stands at four points, and while that means there is plenty of work still to do to prevent an anxious end to the campaign, they are now heading in the right direction and have a squad more than good enough to stay out of trouble.
It has been a tremendous run of late for Southampton, who after a difficult couple of months will now feel they have a very realistic chance of finishing higher than the seventh place they achieved last season, especially after overcoming fellow Europa League hopefuls West Ham United in determined fashion in their last encounter. It was a game that saw them show great resolve to hold on to their 1-0 lead following Victor Wanyama’s latest sending off.
Manager Ronald Koeman originally experimented with the idea of playing with three centre-backs in August, with mixed results. He has now chosen to run with this system again and it is getting the best out of his team, with Virgil van Dijk now being given the freedom to play his natural game alongside two more natural defenders in Maya Yoshida and captain Jose Fonte. This – as well as the return of Fraser Forster in goal – has made them much tougher to break down and so presents Swansea with a considerable challenge.
There are no new injury worries for Swansea to contend with, and they have midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng back after concussion kept him out against Crystal Palace.
Wanyama begins a five-match suspension for Southampton, who have Steven Davis and Matt Targett back from injury.
Last Meeting: The first half sending off of Wilfried Bony was key to deciding the outcome in Southampton’s favour in September 2014 as they continued their strong start to last season. In what was a very tight game for long periods, the Ivorian committed two bookable offenses and Swansea were left to regret it as Victor Wanyama poked a shot past Lukasz Fabianski to win it 10 minutes from the end.