The atmosphere around the south coast has been quite cold and gloomy this season. Following Mauricio Pellegrino’s appointment at the start of the season, things have not gone well for The Saints. Their 3-0 loss to Newcastle United in their previous league encounter resultantly saw the sacking of Pellegrino.
As we head into the business head of the competition, Southampton find themselves in the relegation battle. They go into Saturday’s fixture against West Ham sitting in the 18th place. Mark Hughes will have to muster everything in his armoury to salvage the situation.
He will be hoping that their confidence built from the victory in the FA Cup will have an impact on the Premier League when they take on the West London club at the Olympic Stadium. Charlie Austin’s return to team training will be a major boost for Southampton, a team that has scored just 29 goals in their 30 league outings.
Steven Davis and Matt Targett will be the notable absentees for their trip to London. Austin has returned to training and will be looking to play a part on Saturday. Bertrand is expected to be fit after his withdrawal from International duty to face Italy and Netherlands.
Here is the predicted 4-4-2 line-up to face West Ham
Alex McCarthy will be expected to start in goal for the Saints. He could be guarded by the centre-back pairing of Jack Stephens and summer signing Wesley Hoedt. Cédric Soares could take up his duty on the right flank while Southampton captain Ryan Bertrand will be expected to take his position on the left side of the defence.
In the midfield four, Mario Lemina and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg could be Mark Hughes’ central midfielders. The ex-Stoke City boss will be hoping that Højbjerg can produce yet another stellar performance as he did against Wigan in the FA Cup. Sofiane Boufal and Dušan Tadić will be expected to inject pace and creativity to the Southampton attack as they take up positions on the left and right wing respectively. The midfield will have to be at it’s best while in attack and help out their defence as well.
Manolo Gabbiadini and Guido Carrillo are expected to be the two strikers to feature against West Ham. Southampton will be hoping that his penalty miss against Wigan does not dampen his spirits ahead of Saturday’s crucial encounter. As one of the worst attacking teams this term in the Premier League, face a team with the second worst defensive record, this might be the right place and time to notch up goals for Southampton.