|Fulham 0 v 0 Southampton|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 26th December 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Saints At Fulham The Preview
Saturday, 26th Dec 2020 09:50
Saints head to Fulham but are set to have to take on the Cottagers without 4 of their key players, as they look to push themselves back into the top 5 , can they show the squad has the depth to be able to cope ?
There were some who expressed concerns a few weeks ago that the first XI for Saints was being over played and that Ralph Hasenhuttl wasn't using his squad enough to give key players a rest and keep them fresh.
The warning signs were there after Danny Ings was injured with 10 minutes to go at Aston Villa with the team 4-1 up with 10 minutes to go.
Now Saints go to a tough game against the rejuvenated Fulham without 4 of the vital members of the squad who have put them there, Oriol Romeu is suspended and he is likely to be joined on the sidelines by Danny Ings with a hamstring injury, Jannik Vestergaard with a knee injury and Nathan Redmond has a muscle injury with his hip.
That is a big blow to a squad that has relied on a core of only a dozen outfield players in it's starting line up since the opening two games.
The loss of Jannik Vestergaard will perhaps be the biggest loss, it has been his sudden rise that has been the backbone to which our great run has been built, there are only two real options to replace him, Jack Stephens or the completely untried summer signing Mohammed Salisu.
This highlights why it is a problem, Salisu has been on the bench for the last couple of games, but has not played a game of any kind since July.
Danny Ings failing to pass muster will be a blow but he can be replaced, perhaps not to the levels that he plays at, but Che Adams and Theo Walcott are a decent strike force.
Oriol Romeu will likely be replaced by another summer signing Ibrahima Diallo, but he has played only a few minutes here and there and lacks experience at this level.
This is a game that Saints need to win if they are to keep up their challenge at the top, I keep mentioning three game tranches and if we lose this we will have taken only a single point from the last three games and we are heading off course, win it though and we will be only slightly under the par score needed.
Fulham have picked up of late, since beating Leicester City away from home they have lost only once in the next four games, although the other 3 games have all ended in draws.
We can go into this game with confidence, but will we have too many players in the starting line up who are not match sharp and will take time to find the pace of the game ?
That is my worry especially since Fulham will come out fighting for their lives, knowing that a win could lift them out of the bottom three.
But they have issues of their own, manager Scott Parker is self isolating after a member of his household had a positive Covid 19 test.
Also out is Mario Lemina who cannot play against his parent club Saints, he is likely to be replaced by ex Saint Harrison Reed, both have vied with each other for a place in the starting line up with Scott Parker seemingly deciding that they can't play in the same team, Lemina has been preferred of late, so his absence will probably see Harrison Reed promoted from the bench to replace him.
Ivan Cavaleiro could well be missing up front for a second game and he will be a loss, Kenny Tete not so much so, his wife has had a baby and so he will not feature, but he has made only 2 appearances this season.
New permanent signing Terence Kongolo will again be missing with a long term injury and has not played since his debut back in January after joining on loan from Huddersfield.
I would imagine that Jack Stephens will step in to replace Vestergaard, Diallo to fill in for Romeu and Stuart Armstrong will return to the starting line up as Ralph has a little reshuffle.
I think the starting XI will be:
Walker Peters, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand
Armstrong, Ward Prowse, Diallo, Djenepo
On the bench we will still have options including
Salisu, Tella, N'Lundulu, Long, Smallbone, Valery and Obafemi, all of whom have experience, all bar Salisu in the Premier League, but these options are limited and to be blunt I can't say that we have game changers on the bench as we have had during the previous games.
We can win this game, but we will need to show spirit and get things right at the back, I think we have a strong enough squad to deal with injury crisis's such as this, I would say that the starting line up this afternoon and indeed the bench is still stronger that the one of two years ago when Ralph arrived, we won games back then and can win them now.
But the real issue if the lack of game time for those coming into the side and on the bench, we have not managed substitutions well enough earlier in the season and this has come home to roost this week, the question now is whether that will be a deciding factor or not at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #26 by wessex_exile
Well, after a piss-poor Xmas period so far for the U’s, culminating in the Roots Hall horror show on Boxing Day, let’s hope the U’s have burned off those festive calories and are raring to go. They’ll certainly have to be at their best against a Cheltenham side aiming to force their way into the automatic promotion places. In other news, we now finally have confirmation that there will be a trade deal in place with the EU once Brexit arrives in 2021. It remains to be seen whether it’s a good deal or not, and more to the point, who for, but at least it’s not the economic uncertainty of no-deal.
Letters from Wiltshire #25 by wessex_exile
A little earlier than usual, but as we approach the end of what has been a most difficult year for everyone, I’ll keep the introductory editorial brief, as I’m sure you will all be very busy in the coming days rescuing what you can from this pandemic-ravaged festive period. I simply wish you all peace on earth, goodwill to all (yes, even our South Essex cousins), and here’s to a happy, prosperous and most importantly healthy 2021 for us all.
Letters from Wiltshire #24 by wessex_exile
Welcome to our last match before Christmas. With South Essex going into Tier 3, by the time we take to the pitch at Roots Hall, it’ll be another behind-closed-doors match. With the Tier 3 boundary creeping inexorably closer, one wonders how long the JobServe will hold out and still be able to allow fans to attend. Robbie is doing all he can to make it possible for supporters to attend, and I confess I’m seriously considering our January 2nd match against Tranmere. In other news, I’m relieved to read that the FA will not take disciplinary action against Colchester United after a shameful minority chose to boo players and officials taking the knee, in the words of the EFL “as they highlight the inequality and injustice experienced by the Black Community”. I noticed a tiny minority chose to boo at our mid-week match at the Abbey Stadium, but I was pleased to hear they were immediately drowned out by the remainder of the 2,000 cheering and applauding. I admit I’m a little anxious about today…
Letters from Wiltshire #23 by wessex_exile
As I’ve been providing updates on the ongoing US presidential election, it is worth mentioning that the Electoral College votes have now been cast, which formally confirms Biden as the new President-elect. Normally a formality, as the losing candidate has usually long-since conceded defeat, but these are far from normal times, and America has far from a normal lame-duck President. Still, at least the threat of members of the Electoral College ignoring the popular vote in favour of an outcome demanded by Trump has failed to materialise. In the UK, new Covid tiers were announced this week, with London going into Tier 3. Colchester stays in Tier 2, but only just, with as far north east as Maldon, Braintree and Chelmsford also moving into Tier 3 – and as if you need reminding, Tier 3 means no supporters at matches.
Letters from Wiltshire #22 by wessex_exile
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…hence I’m a bit late today, following the inevitable Christmas tree hunt – the decorating will have to wait until later I reckon. In the news, despite my confident assurance several weeks ago that Trump appeared to be grudgingly starting to accept that he had lost the US presidency election, he’s since doubled-down on his baseless accusations of election fraud – without obviously providing a single shred of evidence to back it up (and how could he, there isn’t any). His latest apoplectic tirade, just today, follows the Supreme Court telling Texas just where they can stick their egregious lawsuit demanding that Biden’s victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia be thrown out in favour of Trump. From a global perspective, it is deeply troubling that no less than 126 republican congressional representatives signed an amicus brief supporting the challenge. Trump will leave the White House in January, but they will stay at the heart of the US government, and I don’t think that’s good news for democracy, nor even the rest of the world. Ho hum…
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