Premier League 17/18 Week 29: Southampton vs Stoke City – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
A crunch battle at the bottom of the table pits two teams separated by a single point and a relegation line
15:00 GMT, Saturday 3rd March, St Mary’s Stadium (Southampton, England)
A 90th-minute goal was needed last weekend to claw the Saints back out of the relegation zone as Mauricio Pellegrino’s side continue to flirt with a bottom-three position. With only five wins in the league all season, times are looking tough for the side who many expected to be challenging for a European spot this year. Having lost their previous meeting with Stoke earlier this season to make it four defeats from six (W1, D1) against the Potters recently, Pellegrino can’t afford to let either of these trends continue this weekend without another visit underneath the dreaded line looking inevitable.
While the Saints have bravely stuck with their manager, Stoke are still fighting the odds at the wrong end of the table. While February may not have brought very much fortune for the Potters, they have at least stemmed the flow of goals which was a mainstay throughout Mark Hughes’ start to the season. A win this weekend would prove more than a huge relief for the beleaguered side, it would also deliver a painful blow to a team fighting against them in the race for safety.
Last Time Out
Burnley 1-1 Southampton (Premier League)
Manolo Gabbiadini came to the Saints rescue in the final minute to earn them a point which clawed them out of the relegation zone. The Italian striker had only been brought on in the 81st-minute but played alongside new striker, Guido Carrillo, who supplied the assist for his goal. Josh Sims was unfortunate not to equalise minutes earlier when Nick Pope made an outstanding save to prevent the 20-year-old attacker, however, Southampton had created little else of note earlier in the match.
Nathan Redmond mirrored his team’s efforts in that both grew into the game after a slow start. While he failed to hit the heights he’s previously shown, there were moments to suggest he could once more provide a threat in the league.
Leicester City 1-1 Stoke City (Premier League)
Jack Butland undid all of his team’s good work with a calamitous own-goal which saw two-points dropped against the Foxes. Stoke had not only started the game the brighter side, they also took a deserved lead through Xherdan Shaqiri just before half-time. The Swiss winger smashed a glorious strike into the corner of the net from the edge of the area to cap a good first half by the Potters.
The second half brought a switch of momentum to the game as the Foxes rallied in the face of adversity. Despite missing several key players in defence and loan-signing Konstantinos Stafylidis making his debut, Stoke held firm and looked good value for their lead. A 70th-minute cross fired across goal by Marc Albrighton changed all of this, however, as the ball slipped Butland’s attention to bounce off his chest and into the net he was guarding.
Maya Yoshida (knee) Shane Long (hamstring) Charlie Austin (hamstring) and captain, Steven Davis (knock) will again miss out through injury. Gabbiadini will have good reason to expect his place back in the squad this weekend, however, Carrillo too deserves a run of games having just arrived at the club in what will be Pellegrino’s biggest choice with his selection for the game.
Stoke City Lineup
Stephen Ireland (calf) and Lee Grant (wrist) are the only players who will be absent for the Potters this weekend with both Ryan Shawcross, Erik Pieters and Peter Crouch once more available for selection. While the first two should see their way back into the starting eleven, Crouch may have to settle for a place on the bench where he can once more prove to be one of the Premier league’s finest super-subs this season.
Key Battle: Nathan Redmond (Southampton) vs Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Stoke City)
While Redmond has missed much of the current campaign, he looks to be making his way back into Pellegrino’s plans for the latter stages of the season. His display last weekend showed the expected signs of rustiness from a player lacking in match-sharpness. If he can find his way back to the form he showed last season, the Southampton wide-man will be a vital weapon for the Saints. If not, there is a new youngster in the shape of Josh Sims looking ready to make his own mark on the team in Redmond’s place.
On the left-wing for the opposition is another player struggling to perform to his own standards. Choupo-Moting began the season with a bang as the Potter’s top-scorer and main creative force in attack. With only one goal and 2 assists from his last 667 minutes of league football, it would be fair to say he’s not enjoying his best run of form at present.
A key contribution this weekend from either of these players could not only prove vital in terms of this match, it could also restore confidence in them and launch them into the end of the season.
Introducing Gabbiadini towards the end of last week’s game not only helped rescue his side a point, it showed that given good service the Italian striker can deliver for the Saints. While many people have pointed to the club’s strikers for their shortage of goals this season, a lack of supply has been a suffocating factor in Gabbiadini’s failure to breathe life into the team.
The substitution last weekend helped shift the momentum of the game in Southampton’s favour by the use of two striker’s on the field together. This is a tactic which has not been used by the Saints from the start of any of their competitive games this year but might see them pose more of a threat to teams and help keep their top-flight status this season.
Out of luck
It’s often been said teams are too good to go down, only for them to be relegated at the end of the campaign. While luck can play a part in who stays and who goes, Stoke appears to be getting nothing but bad luck of late.
The own-goal by Jack Butland was the latest incident following hot on the heels of a missed penalty in the previous match and a defeat to Bournemouth which Lambert said he “did not know how his side lost” after they had dominated the game and failed to increase their early lead by the thickness of the woodwork.
There’s also the old adage that bad things happen in three’s, which would suggest that Stoke could be due for a change in luck this weekend, weather permitting.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Stoke City
Both teams have had an eerily similar season in the sense they both expected to do well but have both become embroiled in a race they’d rather not be in. Both clubs have also shown flashes of genuine quality and with players in their squad capable of producing match-winning moments, both have suffered massively from inconsistent performances. This match could well be another similarity for them with a draw a likely result between the two struggling teams.