After moving out of the bottom three during the week, Sunderland will hope to maintain their run of encouraging performances when they face Southampton in a fixture where they suffered a humiliating 8-0 defeat last season.
The hosts are striving to bounce back in this one after losing their last two matches, with the last of them being against South coast rivals Bournemouth on Tuesday. Aside from an early chance for Charlie Austin, they created little throughout and were never able to match the tenacity of their opponents, so manager Ronald Koeman will be calling for a more committed display here. With the top half of the Premier League appearing so tight, there is plenty for Southampton to fight for during the final 10 games of the season.
There is plenty of incision and trickery in the Saints attack to win this comfortably, but it could be argued that Koeman does not know his best team at present. The recent arrival of Austin has meant that it has proved difficult to accommodate him and Graziano Pelle into the same starting XI, while the Dutchman continues to rotate in various positions. The two sides here are set to play with the same formation, however, so the outcome may boil down to how Oriol Romeu fares in what will be a combative midfield battle.
It has been a demanding week for Sunderland, but on the pitch they continue to show more signs of life than the three teams that are now below them. Their only remaining issue at present seems to be their mentality, which was called into question following their midweek draw at home to Crystal Palace, where after the taking the lead they would have come away with nothing but for Fabio Borini’s impulsive late strike. Game management is a key aspect of modern football, and it could be key to whether the Wearside club stay up or not.
The goal was crucial for Borini personally, as the Italian striker has struggled to live up to the fee that the club paid to bring him to the Stadium of Light last summer. There is a lot of competition for a place in the side with Jermain Defoe having scored a number of goals this season and Dame N’Doye establishing himself as a regular following his January move, but Borini should be confident coming into this one as he can be a real handful for defences on his day.
Pelle is poised to start for Southampton as Austin begins a spell on the sidelines and Shane Long is out with a knee injury. Victor Wanyama continues to serve a ban.
Lee Cattermole will be missing for Sunderland after he picked up a head injury against Palace. Jeremain Lens is also unavailable, but John O’Shea should recover from a calf problem in time to play.
Last Meeting: There was nowhere to hide for Sunderland as they were trounced 8-0 in October 2014, with three own goals contributing to the rout. Santiago Vergini – in spectacular fashion, Liam Bridcutt and Patrick van Aanholt were the unlucky trio, while Graziano Pelle scored twice. The show of appalling defending also allowed Jack Cork, Dusan Tadic and Victor Wanyama to find the net.