Two teams with something still left to play for meet when Southampton host Aston Villa at St Mary’s on Saturday (12:45 BST, live on BT Sport).
Saints come into the match on the back of a run of six defeats and just three wins in their last 12 league matches that has seen them drop out of top-four contention. They are seventh in the Premier League with 57 points from 17 wins, six draws and 13 defeats.
Ronald Koeman’s (pictured) side fell to a 2-0 defeat away to Leicester City last weekend. They were very slow out of the traps and conceded twice inside the opening 20 minutes to provide their hosts with a healthy early advantage. They never really looked like finding a way back into the match thereafter, with Sadio Mane heading over on their best chance of the game.
The cynical may suggest that Saints’ dramatic drop-off in results since mid-February represents a concerted effort on their part to avoid qualifying for next season’s Europa League. Seventh could still yield them a place in that competition depending on who wins the FA Cup, but with Swansea just a point behind they could still drop down a further place.
It has still been an impressive first season for Koeman, regardless of Saints’ eventual finishing position. He coped well with the large turnover of players last summer and relatively quickly formed a side whose excellent defensive record did, at one point, make it seem as if they were capable of finishing in the top four. There is plenty for him to build on next season.
Koeman is without the injured Dusan Tadic (groin), Emmanuel Mayuka (groin), Jay Rodriguez (knee) and Morgan Schneiderlin (knee) for this match.
Aston Villa travel to the south coast on the back of four wins in their last five matches in all competitions, including three in their last six in the league. They are 14th in the Premier League with 38 points from 10 wins, eight draws and 18 defeats.
Tim Sherwood’s side took a large leap towards safety with a 1-0 win at home to West Ham last weekend. They took over three times as many shots as their visitors over the course of the match and created three or four very good opportunities, including the one converted from a yard or so out by Tom Cleverley in the 31st minute that led them to all three points.
The win saw Villa move four points clear of the relegation zone with two matches left to play. With three teams currently between them and Hull in 18th, they now look very well-placed to avoid the drop. They will be safe if Hull fail to take at least a point this weekend, while a point of their own would be sufficient to secure their top-flight status if Hull are unable to win.
Sherwood must be commended for the job he has done since taking over from Paul Lambert in mid-February. He lost his first two league matches in charge but five wins in nine thereafter have put his side in a strong position to stay up, while he has also led them past West Brom and Liverpool to the FA Cup final against Arsenal at the end of the month.
Sherwood will be without the injured Ciaran Clark (knee), Chris Herd (knee), Nathan Baker (knee) and Libor Kozak (lack of match fitness).
Southampton v Aston Villa Betting Tips
These two sides drew 1-1 when they met at Villa Park in November, while last season’s two encounters saw a 0-0 draw in Birmingham and a 3-2 away success for Villa in Southampton. The last eight league meetings at all venues have seen three wins for Villa and two for Saints, while Villa have also won three, to Southampton’s one, in the last six at St Mary’s.
Saints no longer have the best defensive record in the top flight following four consecutive fixtures in which they have conceded twice per match. When they do not concede, they usually emerge victorious – indeed, six of their seven wins since the turn of the year have come in conjunction with a clean sheet – but that may be easier said than done in this game.
Villa have failed to score just twice in their 13 matches in all competitions under Sherwood’s command. His switch to a more attacking and open style of play has reaped major reward for a side who sat 18th having scored just 12 times in 25 league matches prior to his arrival. Eighteen goals in 11 games later and Premier League safety is now very much in sight.
Southampton will be without a couple of important players but will want to perform well in front of their supporters in their last home match of the season. Villa are, though, in good form and we believe a score draw is the most likely outcome.
- Back the draw on the ‘match result and both teams to score’ market @ best odds of 17/4 with BetVictor.
- Christian Benteke has been the primary beneficiary of Sherwood’s introduction of a more attack-minded approach. He had scored 10 times in eight matches prior to last weekend’s victory over West Ham and can be fancied to find the back of the net once again on Saturday. Back Christian Benteke to score at anytime @ best odds of 9/4 with Stan James.