Premier League 17/18: Swansea City vs Southampton – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The battle at the bottom heats up as the Swans and the Saints look for an advantage to take into the final match of the season
19:45 BST, Tuesday 8th May, Liberty Stadium (Swansea, Wales) Sky Sports
Tied together on 33 points, the difference between 17th-placed Southampton and 18th-placed Swansea is currently little more than the relegation line drawn between them.
The Saints point from Merseyside was enough to elevate them out of the mire on Saturday evening following Swansea’s failure on the South coast earlier that day.
This was Swansea’s third consecutive defeat leaving them without a win in seven games and submerged in the relegation zone for the first time in two months.
Without a goal in five of these seven fixtures, their fortunes have taken a grim turn of late but a win over the Saints will change that outlook in a heartbeat.
Southampton’s seven-point advantage in goal difference means they only require a draw to keep control of their fate, however, the late goal suffered against Everton should warn them that they can’t rest on their laurels and assume that a late twist won’t continue their season of anguish.
Last Time Out
Bournemouth 1-0 Swansea City (Premier League)
The Swans suffered another lethargic defeat as their hopes of survival took another bitter blow. While Carlos Carvalhal bemoaned the fact that the game’s one crucial moment went against them, he also conceded that the home team deserved their win.
Beyond a double-save from Mike van der Hoorn and Nathan Dyer midway through the first half and another smart stop five minutes from time, Asmir Begovic was afforded a quiet afternoon in Bournemouth’s penalty area.
Swansea’s impotent attack was a cloud with no silver. Nathan Dyer and Tom Carroll perhaps suffered more than most in Swansea’s starting lineup as they delivered limp displays upon their return to the team.
Although there were some crumbs of comfort for Swansea fans with their defence, notably Lukasz Fabianski who made a stunning save from Callum Wilson in the final five minutes, without goals the Swans are destined for failure. Given the evidence presented on Saturday afternoon, these are worrying times for Swansea fans.
Everton 1-1 Southampton (Premier League)
Southampton were denied victory with almost the last kick of the match as the ten Saints and a sinner were left with a mere point from their Merseyside trip. The hammer-blow came in the 96th minute, Wesley Hoedt getting an unfortunate touch on Tom Davies late shot to leave Alex McCarthy unable to prevent Southampton’s win disappearing with the game’s final act.
Unlike Swansea in the day’s earlier game, the Saints carried plenty of pride and passion into their performance. The away side enjoyed the better chances and in Nathan Redmond, Hughes has a rejuvenated player able to catalyse his side.
The forward has been woefully out of form this season, however, his half-time introduction provided the lift that the visitors needed. His weaving runs at Everton’s goal led to him opening the scoring and provided a razor-sharp cutting edge to the team.
The afternoon was marred for Southampton when Maya Yoshida received his second yellow card to take his marching orders, but the Saints continued to look dangerous on the break.
It was Alex McCarthy who was made to work hardest in the final stages and a cruel sting left the keeper picking the ball out of his net despite a man-of-the-match display.
Swansea City Lineup
While Carlos Carvalhal has no new injury concerns, he will still be without Leroy Fer (Achilles) Kyle Bartley (knee) and Wilfried Bony (ankle) for this crucial encounter.
Connor Roberts has impressed in both previous games and should resume his role as right back, however, Sam Clucas and Andy King are likely to return to the Swans midfield for this game.
Maya Yoshida is suspended after receiving two yellow cards on Merseyside while Steven Davis (ankle) remains out of action and Mario Lemina (hamstring) is also a major doubt after being substituted at half-time against Everton.
This could see Pierre-Emile Højbjerg revert to a central midfield position and the return of Jack Stephens and Nathan Redmond to the starting lineup.
Key Battle: Sam Clucas (Swansea City) vs Nathan Redmond (Southampton)
Widely regarded as more of a utility player than a source of creative wizardry, Clucas’ presence was sorely missed by the Swans against Bournemouth.
Reportedly signed for a £15 million fee last summer, Clucas has already experienced relegation with Hull City but has been one of the brightest players for the Swans this season.
Having been used in a more attacking role in recent appearances, Clucas is likely to play off the left wing and could provide Jordan Ayew with the ammunition he’s been badly missing lately.
Redmond rose from the bench at half-time on Saturday evening to turn the tide in the Saints favour. Having provided energy without end-product in his previous match, Redmond appeared to have turned the corner and found the missing ingredients to his game against the Toffees.
He is likely to be given another start for this crunch encounter on the strength of that display, with Hughes and Southampton fans hoping the forward can add consistency to his undoubted potential.
Eggs in a basket
Carlos Carvalhal nonchalance is in danger of beckoning his, and Swansea’s, downfall. The Portuguese manager was insistent on Saturday evening that his side will avoid relegation.
The irony that his words came at the very time they were sliding back into the bottom three did not seem to register with the 52-year-old.
The lack of urgency by his players against the Cherries, coupled with the league’s worst attack should sound alarm bells rather than maintaining his supreme confidence in the situation. With Swansea’s final two fixtures coming against relegation rivals and on home territory, Carvalhal is placing his reputation on his team still digging their way out of trouble.
A sunny disposition can certainly be a huge benefit in these circumstances, however, pride is said to come before a fall Carvalhal’s ego is in danger of blocking out reality.
Up, up and away…?
Mark Hughes claimed in December that he doesn’t “do relegation”. Having left Stoke floundering marginally above the drop zone the following month, the Potters could not escape the form he left them in and the fate was finally sealed against Crystal Palace last weekend.
When he took charge of the Saints fortunes in mid-March, they too were in a similar position and had only a solitary point keeping them above the red line. A fast descent into trouble ensued and talk turned to the potential of Hughes leading two teams to the drop this term.
As a team who have found some traction, they are now unbeaten in their last three matches and unlucky not to have won their last two. The feisty attitude of Hughes is shining through in his team’s performances and having climbed out of the drop-zone they appear to have one foot on a sturdy surface.
The fact that Hughes’ former club, Manchester City, greets them in their final match means they are far from safe yet though, even if they win at Swansea and take a better goal difference into their last match.
Prediction: Swansea City 0-2 Southampton
The side’s previous meeting this year ended in a 0-0 stalemate and while this fixture may not quite be a “winner takes all” situation, it contains enough importance to be labelled as a six-pointer, despite the fundamental inaccuracies of that term.
If Swansea have one source of hope, it’s that the game is held at their home ground. Their lack of goals should be a huge concern for them, however, and the Saints look to have finally awoken to the challenge of survival which could see them claim a hugely important win on Tuesday.