|Southampton 1 v 1 Crystal Palace|
Barclays Premier League
Wednesday, 30th January 2019 Kick-off 19:45
Saints V Crystal Palace The Preview
Wednesday, 30th Jan 2019 13:00
Looking downwards last nights results were a blow for Saints, but if we look up the table then they could be a blessing in disguise.
For those who fear relegation last night's results were not great for Saints although but for a late Manchester United comeback they could have been far worse.
It meant we dropped to fourth from bottom although that third relegation place is no nearer than it was at the beginning of the evening.
But although we would have perhaps preferred both Newcastle and Burnley to have lost in many respects it might well help us they didn't, it will bring some perspective to the team and fans and perhaps make us focus on the fact that despite a couple of good wins in recent weeks we still have a bit of work to do yet before we are safe.
The first task in hand is the visit of Crystal Palace to St Mary's this evening and if we can take all three points then last night will be a different story, a win would take us above not only the visitors but also Burnley and Newcastle and within a point of Brighton who collapsed so spectacularly at Fulham.
If we do this then the Premier league table will look different we will be looking up and not down and would be six points clear of the drop.
But this is far from an easy game, as the two games against Derby showed we are still frail defensively and prone to lapses as was proved in the final minutes of the Everton game.
But last night will focus us on just what we need to do and how to do it.
I would not expect Ralph Hasenhuttl's team to be much different than the one that turned out against Everton, three defenders at the back with two wide players in Valery and Targett or perhaps even Bertrand to counter the Palace wide men.
Three solid central midfielders and then the in form Redmond running at the defence to support Ings.
That is a good solid line up and I would not expect too much deviation from it injuries aside, the bench would then have Armstrong & Long as two experienced option although then it gets a little short on options with Charlie Austin being stated as having an injury niggle and not expected to feature.
This would allow opportunities for not only the impressive Callum Slattery but perhaps Josh Sims.
But this does show how we are exposed in certain positions literally every central defender will be on the pitch at the start with Hoedt gone and Yoshida away on International duty and up front with Obafemi injured and Austin perhaps away it suggests that unless we bring in another striking option we should not let Charlie Austin leave.
It needs a repeat of the Everton game where both the team and crowd put in a shift, then the players chipped in and then the crowd found it's voice, tonight we need both fired up from the start, Palace are not the worst side in the division as they showed in their last three Premier league away games, Beating Manchester City and Wolves and then losing 4-3 at Liverpool.
This could be our undoing, they are a side who like to draw the home side on and then attack with pace, at Liverpool they had 29% possession, at City 21% and at Wolves it was fairly even with 49%.
But in all three games they scored with virtually there only shots on target and this is not stats I welcome, they are a side who can soak up pressure to a degree and like to go on the break, we are a side that struggle to defend counter attacks.
So this is a big game for Saints, the first time to win three Premier League games in a row for the first time since the final games of 2016 when we won four in a row to finish sixth, if we can do that tonight then the league table will look so much better, if we can emulate four in a row then relegation problems will be a distant memory.
But we should not get too carried away here, all teams suffer setbacks and we have 15 games to pull clear, three points would be nice, but even a point is not a disaster, what we have to avoid is what happened in the same fixture last year, back then the threat of relegation looked far away, yes we weren't having a great season but we just needed a win or two to pull us clear.
A look back at the stats of that game shows we had 61% possession, but we only had 3 shots on target out of 7, with 20 minutes to go we looked good value then we fell apart and Palace scored twice out of their 4 on target to snatch all three points.
The pattern repeated itself in our next two league games a 2-2 draw at Watford where we blew a two goal lead although the late equaliser for the Hornets was a shocking handball and then a home game against Brighton where we could only manage a draw despite total domination, that set the tone for the rest of the season.
Now its a different atmosphere around the club and a different mindset, but the aim is still the same, we need to put points on the board as quickly as possible and take the threat of relegation away.
Win tonight and we make a great start to that, however lose and it will be tough, it won't be a disaster as some will claim, but it will be tough.
What would be nice though would be a game where we dominate from start to finish and take our chances and build up an unassailable lead, it has been a long time since we have combined scoring three goals or more with keeping a clean sheet, perhaps tonight will be that day.
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