The early kick-off on Saturday is Southampton versus Aston Villa, with one side in impressive form and the others’ season tailing off. Had this game been about 3 months ago you would have applied those descriptions to the opposite team. Villa have turned their season round since Sherwood’s appointment and look set to stave off relegation once again. The Saints on the other hand seem to be allowing their season to peter out in an attempt to avoid Thursday night football next season. Southampton have proven a tough task at home all year but for Aston Villa there may not have been a better time to face the home side as they seem to have let their season end a few weeks early. A victory on Saturday should, probably will, secure Villa’s safety so you can expect a big performance from them the only question is whether Southampton are up to match their intensity.
The home side has a couple of long term injuries to deal with. On top of Fraser Forster’s extended absence the Saints are without midfield lynchpin Morgan Scheniderlin for the remainder of the season. After signing a contract extension Jay Rodrguez is reportedly a week away from returning from his season long injury. Although it is unlikely he will be seen again in a Southampton shirt until pre-season. Dusan Tadic is an injury concern with his return date yet to be disclosed.
Aston Villa’s impressive run of form to keep them up seems to be undisturbed by fresh injuries. Their current injury list includes: Ciaran Clark, Chris Herd, Libor Kozak and Nathan Baker. With two weeks left to secure their safety it seems Sherwood’s current first 11 will remain intact to get the job done.
- Last meeting at St Mary’s between the two ended in a 3-2 Villa win in December 2013
- The top goalscorer in Premier league meetings between the sides was Saints legend Matt Le Tissier. He scored 8 times against Villa for the Saints.
- In 68 previous meetings Villa have managed 27 victories over Southampton, while Southampton have recorded 20 wins over the visitors.
- Southampton’s last victory at home against Villa was a 4-1 win in September 2012
- Villa are unbeaten in their last 3 meetings with Southampton
- The first ever meeting between the two was a 4-0 Villa home win back in September 1936
Southampton: Jose Fonte
The Southampton captain has been immense throughout this season. The Portuguese centre-back’s performances have proven that the loss of Dejan Lovren to Liverpool last summer wasn’t as big a blow as it first seemed. Fonte has led a defence, that for large parts of the season, has been the most formidable in the league. The arguments for inclusion in the team of the year over Chelsea defender Gary Cahill were justified. Fonte currently has the highest performance score for Southampton on Squawka in their squad and rightly so. On Saturday, the Saints’ captain will charged with dealing with a reformed Christian Benteke and it should be an interesting tug of war between the two players for superiority.
Aston Villa: Tom Cleverley
The difference 3 weeks can make. Tom Cleverley’s loan to Aston Villa didn’t seem to give his once promising career the restart he had hoped for. The chatter was that Villa would not be seeking to make his loan deal permanent once it expired. That may have changed now. Cleverley has found the net 3 times in his past 3 games, an unprecedented run of form in his career. His willingness to break forward out of midfield in recent weeks is what supporters have been waiting to see from him since breaking into the Manchester United side under Sir Alex Ferguson. There is no doubt that Cleverley will want to continue his impressive performances against Southampton at the weekend. The hope will be on his part that, even if Villa decide not to make the move for him a permanent deal, it will at least entice another Premier League side to take him from Manchester United during the summer transfer window.
This is an interesting match-up. Aston Villa are nearly, and most likely, safe from relegation considering the form of the teams below them but they have their tails up and will want to continue their form in their remaining fixtures. Southampton on the other hand, after an extremely impressive season, seem intent on making sure they miss out on Europa League football next season. With Swansea on their tails to leapfrog them into 7th, you would expect Southampton to fight to secure as good a finish as they can to their season. I do not see that being the case. Europa League football seems more a deterrent than an award to the teams in those positions at the moment. The fact that Villa still have something to play for and Sherwood with a point to prove I think they will be too much for this Southampton side whose season seems finished already. If anything they seem happier to drop points than collect them. With a firing Christian Benteke and a resurgent Tom Cleverley I can see Villa securing their Premier League place a week early.
2-1 Villa Win