It’s matchday 28 in the Premier League and the league heads towards the first international break of 2023 before resuming again in April. With just 10 more games to go before the end of the season, there is still so much to play for with the top 4 race heating up and the relegation battle looking extremely competitive.
Relegation-threatened Southampton host top 4 contenders Tottenham Hotspur in what looks like a crucial game for both sides. The hosts are rock bottom in the league with just 22 points from 27 games and face an uphill task of surviving the drop this season. Ruben Selles took over the sinking Saints’ ship not over a month ago after the sacking of Ralph Hassenhutl due to a poor run of performances and the Spaniard has done a commendable job since taking over the reins at the club.
The Saints have won 2 of their last 5 games in the league including a 1-0 victory over Chelsea away from home and have managed to keep themselves alive in the relegation battle. Every point from this point of the season until the end will be extremely crucial for Selles and Co. and they face a formidable opponent in the form of Antonio Conte’s Spurs who have won 3 of their last 5 matches and have their sights on Champions League football for next season.
Spurs are 4th in the table with 48 points having played a game more than Newcastle United who are just a point behind the Lilywhites. They emerged victorious last time out against Nottingham Forest having beaten them comfortably at home. The uncertainty around the future of Antonio Conte as he enters the final 3 months of his contract remains on the backburner as the Italian is more than determined to guided Spurs to Champions League football next season. It promises to be a great fixture with both sides wanting 3 points to fight at two different halves of the table.
When & Where?
Date: 18th March 2023.
Time: 3:00 PM GMT.
Venue: Saint Mary’s Stadium.
Referee: Simon Hooper.
Assistants: Adrian Holmes, Mark Scholes.
Fourth official: John Busby.
VAR: Tony Harrington.
Assistant VAR: Simon Long.
Selles has a selection headache in defence as he will be without Valentino Livramento, Kyle Walker-Peters, Ainsley Maitland Niles and Juan Larios for the game leaving him with a depleted squad depth in the right-back position. Theo Walcott and Stuart Armstrong were both benched against Brentford last time out and could make their return back into the starting XI. The midfield pivot of James Ward Prowse and Romeo Lavia looks like the pairing Selles will opt for in the middle of the park. New signing Carlos Alcaraz is expected to keep his place in the first team and lead the line alongside Che Adams.
Rodrigo Bentancur, Hugo Lloris, Ryan Sessegnon and Yves Bissouma will not be a part of the Spurs travelling squad as the quartet are out with long-term injuries. Right-wing back Emerson Royal is nursing a knock and remains a doubt for the game. New January signing Pedro Porro is expected to deputize for Emerson’s absence on the right hand side while the rest of the starting XI looks to remain the same. Richarlison, Kane and Heung Min Son will lead the line for the Lilywhites with the middle pivot of Hojberg and Skipp in midfield behind them.
Southampton have had a decent defensive record over the last 5 games having conceded just 3 goals but still have conceded 43 goals in 27 games so far. Selles will want his defence to be well marshalled and nullify the threat of the Spurs frontline. Bella-Kotchap and Bednarek will be tasked with marking Harry Kane as the latter is the creator-in-chief for Spurs in the final third.
With crucial 3 points at stake, the Saints will have to adopt a similar gameplan that they used against Chelsea and Manchester United. They will sit back absorb the pressure and cause damage on the counter attack. This tactic has been effective against both their opponents and could also work this time around as the Spurs’ defence is prone to making costly defensive errors and their wingbacks are caught out high up the pitch leaving ample space in behind the defence to exploit.
Though the chances coming their way will be few, the Saints will have to work on converting them as they rued their missed chances against Manchester United in a game which would have seen them get all 3 points instead of a point. There will be a huge responsibility on the attack in front of the home fans to not disappoint this time around and they are more than capable of causing a major upset and blowing the top 4 race wide open while also moving outside the relegation zone.
As for Spurs, they have been In a good run of form and have the consistency to go on and win the game though their inconsistent defence is a major worry. They have conceded 37 goals so far this season which is the joint highest out of all the teams in the top 10 and will have to be defensively resilient to avoid dropping crucial points as the pressure is increasing with Brighton, Newcastle United and Liverpool all breathing down their neck for the coveted 4th spot in the table.
The Englishman has once again continued his fine form in front of goal this season having already reached the 20-goal mark last weekend with a fine brace against Forest, he will be more than confident to continue his goal-scoring form. Harry Kane is 8 goals behind the current PL top scorer Erling Haaland and with 10 more games to go and is still alive in the Golden boot race. A struggling Saints’ defence would be the perfect opportunity for the 29-year-old to continue adding goals to his tally.
Tottenham lineup vs Southampton: Forster, Lenglet, Dier, Romero, Porro, Hojberg, Skipp, Perisic, Son, Richarlison, Kane.
Southampton lineup vs Tottenham: Bazunu, Bree, Bella-Kotchap, Bednarek, Perraud, Ward-Prowse, Lavia, Armstrong, Alcaraz, Walcott, Adams.