Southampton and Watford will both be looking to avoid suffering a third Premier League defeat in a row when they meet at the St. Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday evening.
There has been a considerable amount of negative press surrounding Southampton since they lost at Norwich City on January 2, after which manager Ronald Koeman did not hold back in publically criticising some prominent members of his out-of-form squad. Victor Wanyama was the primary victim of the Dutchman’s wrath due to his brainless dismissal for a second bookable offense, while Sadio Mane did not exactly earn plaudits for turning up late for a team meeting, a misdemeanour which cost him his place in the team.
The fall-out from that has intensified rumours that Mane could be on his way out of the club in the transfer window, but in the meantime the Saints really need to focus all of their efforts on turning results around. Of all the teams in the Premier League they are falling backwards more than most, and although they are capable of beating any top-flight side when at their best, until they do regain some kind of consistency the scrutiny on them will remain there.
Late goals have done for Watford in each of their last two league matches at home to Tottenham and Manchester City. While a contentious offside decision denied their battling 10 men in the former, there was visible disbelief at their failure to take anything from the latter, having led with less than 10 minutes of normal time to go and with a rock-solid defensive record. For that reason they will be doubly determined to get back on track here.
Despite the fact that both of Man City’s goals were quality finishes, there was every reason for manager Quique Flores to be disappointed with the lack of attentiveness from his back four in the closing stages. First, Jole Holebas allowed Yaya Toure to break free and volley the equaliser, before indecision from Craig Cathcart and Allan Nyom allowed Sergio Aguero a free – though very well taken – header. But thanks to their away record and the hosts’ current form, the Hornets will fancy their chances here.
The hosts hope to have striker Graziano Pelle back available after injury. Meanwhile, Wanyama completes his two-match ban.
Odion Ighalo is set to be restored to the Watford line-up after being rested for the FA Cup win over Newcastle United. Nathan Ake serves the final game of his suspension.