Ronald Koeman still believes Southampton can break into the Premier League’s top four providing they improve their away form – starting with Saturday’s trip to Everton.
Southampton lie seventh in the table, seven points shy of fourth-placed Manchester City having played a game more.
Defeat to leaders Leicester City at the start of this month means the south-coast club have alternated victories and losses in their past four trips away from St Mary’s.
Koeman believes the forthcoming assignment at Goodison Park, before travelling to teams of contrasting fortunes in Aston Villa and Tottenham, gives his men an opportunity to change their fluctuating form.
“It’s true that we stay close to them, but if we show better away form then we can do it,” he told a pre-match news conference.
“Still there is a difference between our home games and our away games and we need to improve.
“That’s the question for the next two away matches that we have – Everton and Aston Villa.
“If we can win both we will have a good end of the season, that’s for sure.”
Koeman will welcome Northern Ireland midfielder Steven Davis back into his squad following an ankle problem, although striker Charlie Austin is sidelined with a knee injury.
“It happened last week in warming up before the Newcastle game. He twisted his knee,” the manager explained.
“There’s no damage to the ligament, maybe he will be out for one more week, but he’s not available.”
Everton’s season now hinges on their participation in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United later this month, with a five-match winless run in the league leaving them 12th on 40 points.
A rampant 3-0 win thanks to a Romelu Lukaku brace and a late Ross Barkley strike at Southampton in August suggested a more promising return this term and assistant boss Graeme Jones hopes the reverse fixture can rekindle similar form.
“When we played them earlier in the season, I thought you saw an Everton side that was hungry and fresh – and we have to get that feeling back,” he told Everton’s official website.
“I think such a positive performance and win against them last time out can help. They’ll be aware of the damage we did down there because we scored two goals quickly and the game was effectively finished.
“There’ll be a certain amount of respect their players give to ours, but we just need to concern ourselves with our own performance and make sure we perform in a similar way.”
Under-fire Everton boss Roberto Martinez will assess Barkley, Leighton Baines and Aaron Lennon (hamstring) after the trio ended Wednesday’s 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace in discomfort, while midfielder James McCarthy was sent off at Selhurst Park and is suspended.
Key Opta stats
– Everton have only lost two of their past 12 Premier League meetings against Southampton (W6 D4 L2).
– Romelu Lukaku has scored four goals in six Premier League appearances versus Southampton, along with one own goal to assist Everton’s weekend opponents.
– Roberto Martinez’s men have won once in their previous nine attempts at Goodison Park in the league.
– Everton have four matches left to improve on a home tally of 16 points in the Premier League this term. A 25-point haul in 1996-97 stands as their worst return to date.
– Graziano Pelle has become the fifth Southampton player to score 10 or more goals in successive Premier League seasons after Matthew Le Tissier, James Beattie, Rickie Lambert and Kevin Phillips.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!