Southampton’s final home game of the season is must-win, according to manager Ronald Koeman, who is desperate to beat Aston Villa as his side hunt UEFA Europa League football.
The south-coast club, who are seventh, have endured a difficult run in the Premier League as of late, losing three of their past four matches – including a 2-0 defeat at Leicester City last week.
Despite their poor form, Southampton remain just one point adrift of Tottenham in sixth place, which offers a spot in Europe due to Chelsea’s League Cup victory.
Southampton’s current placing could offer an avenue to the continent if Villa win the FA Cup, although Swansea City have provided a fresh challenge in recent weeks.
Garry Monk’s men earned a smash-and-grab 1-0 win over Arsenal on Monday to move within a point of Southampton.
Koeman is confident his team have what it takes to hold off Swansea as well as reel in Spurs, and is hoping to sign off at St Mary’s Stadium for the season with a welcome win.
“It’s our last home game. I think the fans deserve a win and we need a win,” he said.
“It’s all about us and not about Swansea. We have to win. If we win [the remaining two games] they can’t pass us on the table. It’s up to us.
“I think to be finished in the sixth position we need at least four points.”
Tim Sherwood’s Villa travel to St Mary’s on the back of back-to-back victories, which have vaulted them above the immediate scrap for Premier League survival.
Tom Cleverley scored his third goal in as many games to help Villa to a 1-0 win over West Ham last weekend, a result that leaves the Midlands club four points clear of the bottom three.
But Sherwood is leaving nothing to chance as Villa aim to guarantee safety with their Wembley day out on the horizon.
“Southampton is a very important game. We need the points and we know it will be a very difficult game down there,” he said.
“The fans have been great since I came in. We needed them and we’re going to need them now. We’re still fighting to stay in the division.
“We’re confident. I’m glad we’ve got ourselves in a position where we have a chance of retaining our Premier League status.”
Villa have Nathan Baker back in training after a knee injury. Southampton welcome James Ward-Prowse back from suspension, but Morgan Schneiderlin (knee) is still out.
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