Southampton’s European hopes are hanging after taking just one point from last four fixtures, meaning they need to try and defeat Aston Villa if they are to have any chance of achieving a top 7 finish. The Villans will want to secure Premier League survival ahead of the final day of the league campaign in order to fully focus on the FA Cup final.
It is fair to say that the fans and media alike have been impressed with how well Southampton have done after a very difficult summer, but a failure to secure European football would definitely leave a bad taste in the mouth. The Saints have suffered a dip in form in the New Year, but a top 7 position never really looked under threat, that is until the last couple of weeks. But, while Ronald Koeman’s charges suffered three defeats in last four, eighth-placed Swansea recorded three straight wins to climb within one point of St Mary’s outfit. And with Southampton facing holders Manchester City on the road on the final day of the season, they are well aware that everything will depend on the outcome of the Aston Villa clash. The problem is that the hosts are far from the desired form at the moment, as witnessed by back to back defeats to relegation strugglers Sunderland and Leicester City, and it won’t be easy for them to stop high-flying Villans at St Mary’s. Southampton may have been made the favourites to win, but I am not convinced they will end a four-match winless run this weekend. The hosts will have James Ward-Prowse back from suspension, but the likes of Dusan Tadic, Morgan Schneiderlin, Fraser Forster, Jay Rodriguez and Emmanuel Mayuka continue to miss out.
This season is quickly turning from a disappointing one into a major success, but the players cannot afford to relax just yet. Aston Villa have done a tremendous job since Tim Sherwood took over the reigns, eliminating Leicester City, West Bromwich and Liverpool to reach the first FA Cup final since 2000, where they will have the opportunity to win the coveted trophy after 58 years. But, the most important thing is that the Villans have all but secured Premier League survival with three wins in last four, sitting four points clear of the relegation zone ahead of the final two fixtures. Nevertheless, Tim Sherwood has made it clear that he would prefer to be mathematically safe after the Southampton game as that would give them a perfect opportunity to rest his key men ahead of the FA Cup final. This is why we can expect Aston Villa to try and extend the excellent run of results at St Mary’s and they clearly head into the all-important clash in much better spirits than the opposition. The Villans have done pretty well on the road of late, defeating Sunderland and Tottenham, while making life difficult for the Manchester rivals, and with no fresh injury worries to report, I can see them getting at least one point from this match.
Southampton are going through a very rough patch at the moment, with their key players clearly far from the desired form. Meanwhile, Aston Villa are playing their best football of the season, and with the confidence sky high, I am backing the visitors to avoid defeat at St Mary’s.
Verdict: Double chance on Aston Villa
Best Odds: 11/10