Sunderland remained at a safe distance from the relegation zone in spite of their failure to beat Stoke, and another point would probably see them clinch Premiership survival. Southampton were not properly rewarded for the promising display at White Hart Lane, but the good news is they are just one point shy of the 40-point mark.
Important point against Stoke
While many were quick to praise Paolo Di Canio after he led his new side to victories over Newcastle and Everton, the next two fixtures proved the Italian can only do so much with what is a pretty average squad. Embarrassing defeat at Villa Park clearly served as a major blow to the players’ confidence, who could then only muster a 1-1 draw with Stoke at home. However, considering the Black Cats were a goal and a man down after the first period, credit to them for picking up a valuable point. With Wigan losing their rearranged match against Swansea, Sunderland remained three points clear of the relegation positions, which is a good thing considering they have all sorts of problems at the moment. As the key men continue to miss out and poor results affecting the players’ confidence, the Black Cats could find it hard to match very good Southampton side. The good news is they only need one point from this match to secure Premier League survival, provided Arsenal beat Wigan at home, but even that one point will be difficult to earn.
Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner are both suspended, whereas Steven Fletcher, Lee Cattermole, Wes Brown and Titus Bramble continue to miss out.
Good performance at the Lane
Having played so well against some of England’s top sides over the last couple of months, it was only normal to see Southampton experience a small dip in form ahead of the season finale. And while they did suffer several unexpected slip-ups, the Saints did not slip into the danger zone, albeit thanks to Swansea’s victory at DW Stadium. Mauricio Pochettino’s side may be on a four-match winless run, but an excellent performance against Tottenham at the Lane is enough to suggest the poor run of form was short-lived. Southampton completely outplayed the top 4 hopefuls in North London and missed a number of clear-cut chances to score before they were punished for allowing Gareth Bale too much space on the ball. The Saints will now be aiming to take advantage over Sunderland’s problems and attempt to repeat the performance from the Tottenham match, which should in turn see them secure Premier League survival before the final game of the season. Given the teams’ current form, Southampton look much closer to victory here.
Gaston Ramirez is banned, but Daniel Fox returns from suspension. Richard Chaplow remains the only player in the infirmary.
With both sides likely to secure survival in case of a draw, we should see a cagey affair at the Stadium of Light, but Southampton might just be able to exploit the absence of Sunderland key men. The Saints have played really well on the travels of late and they do look like favourites here.
Top pick: Southampton Draw no bet 1.91 (10/11) @ Sportingbet
Alternative pick 1: Under 2.5 goals 1.75 (3/4) @ Betfair
Alternative pick 2: Half-time draw 2.20 (6/5) @ bet365
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