Prior to Friday’s game, many Southampton supporters may have been happy with a tie against Premier League (PL) leaders Arsenal. However, considering the Saints led 2-0 and 3-1 in that game, Saints manager Rubén Sellés bemoaned the eventual 3-3 draw, saying it seemed like they had “lost two points.” They have now gone seven games (D3, L4) without a victory, and with a huge gap between themselves and safety, the rock bottom team has to start winning soon.
The Saints have the chance to achieve their first winning league double over Bournemouth since the two teams were in League One back in 2010/11, making this the perfect match to start their journey to redemption. However, the fact that Southampton is the only PL team with just two victories from 16 home league games (W2, D4, L10) may make it more difficult for them to achieve that goal.
Despite a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of West Ham in the previous round, Bournemouth can’t finish this round in the bottom three thanks to a run of three wins in their last five games. Gary O’Neil, the manager of the Cherries, was relatively unconcerned when he said that his team couldn’t cope with their opponents but that they are still in a strong position going into this match.
With back to back away league victories ahead of this round, the Cherries’ survival chances have been helped by their improved road performance. This is equal to the number of road victories they had in their previous 14 visits (W2, D2, L10). However, another victory would shatter two records, as Southampton has never lost more than ten league games at home, while Bournemouth has never put together a three games winning streak of away PL games.
Despite scoring and providing an assist for Southampton against Arsenal, Carlos Alcaraz was controversially replaced at halftime. The Argentine also scored the sole goal in his team’s most recent home victory. Dominic Solanke was involved in three of the four goals scored by Bournemouth in their last two away league triumphs (G1, A2).
Che Adams (calf), Mohammed Salisu (hip), and Juan Larios (hamstring) are all out injured for Southampton, but Valentino Livramento is still working on his fitness with the club’s B squad.
In the first half of the tie with Arsenal, Jan Bednarek was substituted after landing awkwardly on his neck. The defender will be evaluated before kickoff, if the Polish center back is not considered able to play, either Caleta-Car or Lyanco might start alongside Armel Bella-Kotchap.
After being ruled ineligible to play against his parent club Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is now available for selection. Kyle Walker-Peters or Romain Perraud might start at left back with Maitland-Niles at right back.
Alcaraz, 20, shone as an advanced midfielder against Arsenal in the first half before being substituted at halftime due to a yellow card. The 20 years old is anticipated to hold his spot in the starting lineup behind central striker Theo Walcott.
For Bournemouth, Hamed Traore will be evaluated after missing the previous three games due to a foot injury. Ryan Fredericks (calf) and Junior Stanislas (unspecified) are expected to remain out.
Since Chris Mepham will start at center back with Marcos Senesi or Illya Zabarnyi since Jack Stephens, who is on loan from Southampton, is ineligible to play against his parent club. If O’Neil opts to switch back to a back four, Lloyd Kelly may move to left back.
In the center of the field, Joe Rothwell and Jefferson Lerma might stay together, while Dominic Solanke and Philip Billing, who have combined to score nine of Bournemouth’s 16 away goals this season, are expected to stay together.
Southampton possible starting lineup
Bazunu, Maitland-Niles, Bednarek, Bella-Kotchap, Walker-Peters, Ward-Prowse, Lavia, Elyounoussi, Alcaraz, A. Armstrong and Walcott.
Bournemouth possible starting lineup
Neto, Smith, Mepham, Senesi, Kelly, Tavernier, Lerma, Rothwell, Ouattara, Billing and Solanke.
Our prediction is Southampton 1-2 Bournemouth
Both teams are fully aware of how crucial a win on Thursday will be in their effort to avoid the drop, with Southampton under extra pressure given that they have fewer games left to play in order to move out of the bottom three.
The Saints will have some hope from a narrow success at the Vitality Stadium six months ago, but we think the Cherries will bounce back from their crushing setback last time out and continue their impressive away run with a victory at St Mary’s.