This Wednesday evening, St Mary’s Stadium will host the Premier League’s latest basement battle when Southampton take on Norwich City.
The Premier League table suggests that these two clubs have trod very similar paths this season. One point and one league position currently separate the two sides as Southampton and Norwich sit 18th and 19th respectively in the league table. Both teams have scored 15 goals so far this season, as well as both possessing a top goal scorer on seven goals in the shape of Danny Ings and Teemu Pukki. Recently, the similarities between the two teams stretch further than their league position and points tally. Both sides are now unbeaten in two games, earning four points in the process and showing a turnaround in form welcomed by Saints and Canaries supporters alike.
The stakes are high, and with both sides desperate to build on their momentum and claw themselves out of the relegation zone, the enormity of this fixture will not be lost on either manager. A win for Norwich would see them leapfrog their opponents in the table, and create a shimmer of daylight between themselves and the Saints. For Southampton, a win could lift them out of the bottom three for the first time since late October should the results elsewhere favour them. A draw will suit neither side.
It is true to say that the Canaries do not travel well when they visit Southampton. It was just over a decade ago when Norwich City last won at St Mary’s. However, this time around, Daniel Farke will fancy his team’s chances following a spirited display in Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Arsenal. It was a game Norwich City should have won, and would have won had it not been for the brilliance of Arsenal stopper Bernd Leno late on. “A draw wasn’t a fair result, I’m pretty proud of the performance”, claimed Farke (via canaries.co.uk) reflecting on what could have been. In Teemu Pukki, Norwich certainly pose a real threat to the Saints, and the emergence of young starlet Todd Cantwell has added some much-needed dynamism to their attack.
Hosts Southampton will be buoyed by their 2-1 victory over Watford on Saturday. The South coast side finally earned that elusive first win of the season at home, their first in eight months, and the victory has helped ease the pressure slightly on Ralph Hasenhüttl. Reacting to their victory over Watford, Hasenhüttl said (via The Southern Daily Echo) “It was important, this win. But the weight on our shoulders we lifted and that was the most important thing today.”
Southampton will be aiming to make it back-to-back Premier League wins, a feat not achieved by the Saints since last season. If Southampton are to win this one, they will no doubt have to rely on Danny Ings to continue his fine goalscoring form. Sofiane Boufal can expect to start the game on Wednesday after an eye-catching display against the Hornets. His second-half introduction turned the game completely on its head, and Norwich City will have a job on their hands if they are to nullify his threat. If Boufal can add goals to his performances, Southampton will have a serious talent on their hands.
Going forward, both teams can be dangerous. Defensively though, neither side boasts a good record. Between them, they have the two leakiest defences in the Premier League. It certainly makes for an exciting encounter under the floodlights at the St Mary’s Stadium.
If all the comparisons ahead of this game tell us anything, it is to expect the odd defensive mistake, and more importantly, plenty of goals.
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