Buoyed by the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, Southampton play host to Fulham in an attempt to cement a top six place and extend their unbeaten run to seven matches. The Cottagers are in confident mood following back to back triumphs over Stoke and Crystal Palace, but they should be aware this will be a whole different ball game.
Saints continue to impress
The time when Southampton were fighting for their lives now looks like a distant past, with Mauricio Pochettino’s men proving week in week out they can mix it up even with the best of them in England. With several new players arriving in the summer, the Saints made several slip-ups in the early exchanges, but they have been absolutely amazing in the last five fixtures. While defeating Bristol City in Capital One Cup, Mauricio Pochettino’s men beat Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Swansea in the league, before holding Manchester United to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. And even if they scored the equalizer in the dying moments of the match, it was nothing more than they deserved for another quality performance. With the arrival of Dejan Lovre adding a great deal of stability to the back line, Southampton’s defensive record is second to none having conceded mere three goals so far, while they continue to score goals on regular basis, especially in home games against bottom-table sides. All things considered, the Saints look set to extend their impressive run against weak Fulham.
Apart from midfielder Steven Davis, who is a minor doubt after picking up an injury in training, Mauricio Pochettino has fully fit squad to choose from.
Crucial victories for Fulham
It is fair to say Fulham have been on a major downtrend ever since Martin Jol took over, and the former Tottenham boss has got to take part of the blame. Quality players have come and go, but the Cottagers have remained genuine relegation strugglers and no wonder the Dutchman was under a lot of pressure following the home defeat to Cardiff City some four weeks ago. However, just as fans started calling for Martin Jol to resign, Fulham recorded a very important victory over Stoke, before turning on the style against poor Crystal Palace to make it two in a row. The last two results could make people believe the Cottagers have enough in them to upset in-form Southampton, but I just don’t see how they are going to do that. While they faced out-of-sorts sides with the lack of quality in their last two matches, Fulham will now be up against a genuine top table team that appear to be on top of their game at the moment. And even if the visitors will defend in numbers in an attempt to prevent their opponents from scoring, I seriously doubt they can survive the match without conceding at least once.
Key players Brede Hangeland and Bryan Ruiz face late fitness tests, whilst Aaron Hughes and Matthew Briggs are definitely out.
Southampton have won last two Premier League matches at the Stadium of Light without conceding and the trend looks likely to continue. Fulham not only lack the quality to match the top table sides, but they largely struggle on the road and have some important missings at the moment.
Top pick: Home win 1.62 (5/8) @ Paddy Power
Alternative pick 1: Southampton/Southampton 2.50 (3/2) @ Betfred
Alternative pick 2: Southampton to win to nil 2.75 (7/4) @ Coral