Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Two sides striving for three points for entirely different reasons meet at St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon, as Southampton host Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.
Ruben Selles’s basement-dwellers were put to the sword 2-0 by Brentford in midweek, while the Lilywhites most recently cruised past Nottingham Forest 3-1 last weekend.
There was no shortage of attacking endeavour from Southampton during a rainy visit of Brentford on Wednesday night, but the Bees’ cutting edge set them apart from their South Coast counterparts, whose survival task became all the more arduous with defeat to Thomas Frank’s crop.
A well-worked set-piece routine ended with Ivan Toney prodding home the game’s opening goal on the 32-minute mark, and the striker soon turned provider for Yoane Wissa, who raced through to slot home merely seconds after Southampton had lost a duel from a goal-kick.
From arguably being unfortunate not to have beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford to remaining bottom of the table with a humbling loss to Brentford, Southampton still only have a two-point gap separating them from the safety of 17th spot, but their relegation rivals now crucially boast a game in hand.
Southampton can only rely on so many James Ward-Prowse set-piece situations to bail them out of trouble, but the Saints can now boast a paltry three goals from their last eight Premier League contests, while six of their last seven Premier League home games have now ended in defeat.
Silver linings are few and far between at St Mary’s right now, but conceding just three goals in their last five Premier League matches – keeping clean sheets against Chelsea and Man United – can be viewed in a positive light, although that may not count for much against a rejuvenated Spurs outfit.
Southampton are a far cry from the team they were under Mauricio Pochettino, who has been strongly linked with a sensational return to Tottenham as Antonio Conte runs down the final few months on his contract, but the Italian’s fiery passion on the touchline was there for all to see during the visit of Forest.
Richarlison may have seen a strike chalked off within three minutes as his wait for a first Premier League goal for Tottenham goes on, but Harry Kane’s 19th and 20th goals of the season preceded a final Son Heung-min effort before Joe Worrall gave the Forest faithful something to cheer in the dying embers.
Conte’s side were also indebted to a last-gasp Fraser Forster penalty save from Andre Ayew for preventing a true squeaky bum time finish, but by bringing a miserable week to a pleasant end, their fourth-placed standing in the Premier League table remains safe for the time being.
The Lilywhites are out of sight of Liverpool, but Newcastle United have two games in hand to make up a four-point deficit, so Spurs’ hopes of Champions League qualification – which Conte claimed would be akin to winning a trophy – are still out of their own hands.
While the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium fortress still has its walls intact, Spurs travel to St Mary’s having suffered an abysmal four away defeats in succession across all tournaments, failing to score in each of their last three against AC Milan, Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
It has been just over 40 years since Spurs last lost four successive away games without finding the back of the net, but they strolled to a 4-1 success over Southampton during the opening weekend of the 2022-23 season, having been held to a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s last season.
Southampton Premier League form:
Southampton form (all competitions):
Tottenham Hotspur Premier League form:
Tottenham Hotspur form (all competitions):
We say: Southampton 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur
A continued lack of ruthlessness and midweek fatigue will no doubt work against Southampton versus their more esteemed counterparts, who are primed to snap their dampening run of away defeats on the South Coast.
With Conte’s side not possessing the desired attacking formula on the road either, goals may be at a premium here, but a refreshed Lilywhites crop should boost their top-four chances at the expense of Southampton’s survival hopes.