Southampton return home on Saturday afternoon to host a mixed-form Watford side, and they will feel the pressure mount as the need for a win becomes desperate for Mark Hughes.
The Hornets have had an up and down first eleven games, where they currently sit in a respectable 8th place on 19 points, winning six, drawing one and losing four. They began the season winning their opening four games, but have since slipped in form, having lost 4-0 to Bournemouth since then, but showed real class in their victories against Wolves and Huddersfield in recent fixtures.
Southampton meanwhile are stuck at a crossroads, where they are continually struggling to get the results they need, and sometimes deserve; they sit in 16th place on 7 points. Mark Hughes is under growing pressure at Southampton after one win and just seven goals in their first 11 league matches. The club’s owners took action this week, sacking vice-chairman Les Reed and technical director Martin Hunter. If Hughes is to avoid following them out of the door, a first home win since April is desperately needed.
Ayoze Perez grabbed the only goal for Newcastle as they grinded out what could be a precious victory for them. This was Rafa Benitez’s first three points of the season, which saw them lift off bottom and out of the relegation zone. As for Watford, the defeat came as a shock considering the form of their opponents, but they couldn’t find a break through despite their dominance, certainly in the first half.
Southampton too suffered defeat, and were beaten with some conviction. Manchester City rang rings around Saints players, as they trounced them 6-1 at the Etihad. The likes of Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero had a field day against their south-coast opponents, who continued to prove they are miles ahead of the game right now. The thrashing would have struck fear into the hearts of the Southampton fans, and certainly would have left Hughes worried as to what comes next.
The sides played out for a draw last time they met, in a game that ended 2-2. A James Ward-Prowse double put the Saints 2 up inside the first half, but the Hornets dug deep to scrape a draw, via goals from Andre Gray and a last minute Abdoulaye Doucoure equaliser.
Despite his side’s heavy defeat on the weekend, Hughes was impressed with the shift that 18-year-old Michael Obafemi put in against the champions, who now remains in contention to feature in the match day squad once more.
Hughes, who brought the forward into the fold last week and has kept him involved in training ahead of the game, said: “He’s had a good week. He’s had an international call-up, and we’ll see where he goes with that.
“Obviously, he’s got a couple of options. I’m not sure whether or not he’s made a definitive decision in terms of where he feels his international future lies, but it’s good recognition for how well he’s done and obviously being able to give him an opportunity – I wanted him on the bench to see if at some point against a very good Man City side can I put him on and can he deal with that scenario and situation.
“I have to say he coped with it really, really well, he’s got blinding pace as well, which we haven’t got a great deal of in the team, so the fact he was able to come on and look like he enjoyed the experience and had an effect on a very good team that augurs well for the future for us and for him.”
Southampton are keeping their eyes on Wesley Hoedt and Mario Lemina due to respective foot and thigh troubles, although manager Hughes believes Lemina is likely to be available.
Meanwhile, Watford’s Etienne Capoue is suspended but Troy Deeney is back in contention to feature. Midfielder Tom Cleverley has returned to training after being sidelined since January, but is not being considered for this match. Daryl Janmaat (knee) and Sebastian Prodl (hamstring) are also out of action.
Predicted line ups:
Southampton (4-4-2): McCarthy; Cedric, Stephens, Vestegaard, Bertrand; Elyounoussi, Hojbjerg, Lemina, Redmond; Long, Ings.
Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Femenia, Marriapa, Cathcart, Holebas; Pereyra, Doucoure, Hughes, Deulofeu; Deeney, Gray.
Prediction – Southampton 1-2 Watford
(Quote credits: Southampton FC)