Southampton welcome Bournemouth to St Mary’s Stadium this weekend in the clash of the two South Coast Premier League clubs. It doesn’t have the reputation of the clash between Southampton and Portsmouth, but it will be a fixture that both clubs will want to win. The home side will want to consolidate their position in the top half, while Bournemouth will be hoping to continue their recent good form.
It has been a mixed season for Southampton, but they continue to perform as one of the best sides outside of the top six. They are set to finish in the top ten once again, in addition to reaching the final of the EFL Cup. Their Europa League campaign was a disappointment and showed the lack of squad depth that the club possess. Claude Puel may not be as glamorous as Ronald Koeman or Mauricio Pochettino, but he is a shrewd operator and Saints should be set for a good end to the season.
After some worries about relegation, Bournemouth have climbed to 11th and could move ahead of their opposition with a win on Saturday. They have won their last two matches with some much-improved performances across the pitch. Josh King has emerged as a real threat for Bournemouth in attack, while Benik Afobe managed to score during their last match. They should be set to safely remain in the Premier League.
The hosts have won two of their last three league matches, but they have been hugely inconsistent since the turn of the year. Seven of their last seven league matches have ended in defeat. Before the international break, they competed well against Tottenham, but they came out of the game with nothing to show for their efforts.
Bournemouth had been without a win in 2017 until May, when they recorded back-to-back wins over West Ham and Swansea City. That has given them the momentum and points cushion required to reduce fears of relegation. Their away form remains a problem as they haven’t won away from home since December and only twice throughout the entire league season.
Claude Puel may only make one change from the team that lost to Tottenham, with Manolo Gabbiadini set to miss out. Shane Long could be recalled to the starting eleven in his place.
Jordon Ibe could be set for a rare start if Ryan Fraser doesn’t recover from injury. Jack Wilshere could be recalled after a few weeks out of the team. He has an extra ounce of quality and has a point to prove as the season reaches its climax.
Manolo Gabbiadini is unlikely to feature as he has a groin injury. Charlie Austin, Matt Targett, Virgil van Dijk and Alex McCarthy remain on the treatment table.
Ryan Fraser is a doubt with a knee injury, while Harry Arter and Junior Stanislas will both miss out with injuries. Adam Federici and Callum Wilson remain out with long-term problems. Tyrone Mings is suspended.
Verdict: Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth
Bournemouth have been impressive in recent weeks, but there remain doubts regarding their ability to replicate their performances on the road. They have won only twice away all season and Southampton won’t want to fall below their fellow South Coast side. The Saints have been fallible in recent weeks and it will be a nervy game on Saturday. However, I expect the home side to take the three points. Manalo Gabbiadini will be a huge miss, but they should have enough to get past Bournemouth.