Southampton and Reading meet at St Mary’s on Saturday with both teams looking to pick up a crucial three points against their relegation rivals.
It is a cliché to call a game a six pointer and it is used on far too regularly, but this appears to be one of those occasions where it can be used legitimately.
Both Southampton and Reading are currently placed in the drop-zone and they will be keen to grab a victory in a fixture which both teams will consider winnable.
The two sides have never met each-other in a Premier League fixture, but have played against each-other many times in the Championship.
The biggest fixture in recent times between the two teams was played-out last season when Reading and Southampton, both battling for promotion, met at St Mary’s and Reading ran out 3-1 winners – a result that was pivotal in their title winning success at Championship level last campaign. Two late goals from Adam Le Fondre clinched the victory that day after Jason Roberts had given them the lead, and The Royals will be hoping that the same two strikers can do damage to The Saints’ backline this weekend.
Southampton have a relatively clean-bill of health, but full-backs Daniel Fox (knee) and Frazer Richardson (hip) are both out. Meanwhile, Richard Chaplow is a doubt, following a knock.
Reading are still without combative and key midfield man Jem Karacan, so Jay Tabb looks set to continue to start in his place. Meanwhile, pacey winger Jimmy Kebe, full-back Chris Gunter and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy are all sidelined.
Adam Lallana – The creative midfielder has built up a reputation as one of the finest talents in the Football League and will be keen to prove that he can perform to the same standards at the top level too. He has been an ever-present in his side this season and hasn’t looked out of his depth – completing 81% of his passes on average and leading the club’s assist charts with four. However, his recent form has been a little worrying with his pass completion dropping to just 68% in his last three games. If his passing-range is off again, Southampton lose a major creative figure in their squad and will be reliant on big-money summer signing Gaston Ramirez to carve open the Reading defence. Ramirez’s own figures show that he is starting to settle into life and is perhaps a slightly more attacking minded play-maker than Lallana with 32% of his passes being forward, compared to Lallana’s 21%. On Saturday the home crowd will be hoping that the product of their own academy can rekindle his Championship and early-season form to provide them with the chances to win the game.
Leigertwood – The combative central midfielder’s partnership with Jem Karacan last season was a major reason that The Royals find themselves in this division, but with his regular central midfield partner out inured he has still been excellent at a higher level. He has won 62% of his tackles this campaign and completed 82% of his passes, showing well rounded ability in his game. He will be looking to use his defensive abilities to full advantage at the weekend to break up the play between the skilful Southampton attack to provide cover for a defence which has been shaky this season.
Southampton 2-2 Reading