Southampton will seek to bounce back from League Cup humiliation when they host struggling Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday.
Ronald Koeman’s side suffered the indignity of exiting the League Cup quarter-finals with a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool in front of their own fans on Wednesday.
The Saints took the lead in the first minute at St Mary’s Stadium through Sadio Mane, but were overwhelmed by the visitors’ response, as a Daniel Sturridge brace, Jordan Ibe’s goal and Divock Origi’s hat-trick saw Jurgen Klopp’s in-form Reds cruise into the last four.
Southampton have a good opportunity to make amends at the first opportunity this weekend, against the Premier League’s bottom club.
Villa have not won in the league since they were last on the south coast, beating promoted Bournemouth 1-0 on the opening day of the season in August.
Since then the West Midlands club have sacked Tim Sherwood, the man who secured their top-flight status and took them to the FA Cup final last term, replacing him with Frenchman Remi Garde.
The former Arsenal player and Lyon coach oversaw an encouraging 0-0 draw at home to Manchester City last month, but since then they have suffered a 4-0 loss at Everton and 3-2 defeat at home to Watford.
Villa go into the game in last place with just five points from 14 matches played, seven adrift of safety.
Southampton by contrast are 10th, the epitome of mid-table comfort, 10 points clear of the bottom three and nine points off leaders Manchester City.
Villa manager Garde has again left promising young midfielder Jack Grealish out of the matchday squad for disciplinary reasons, while the away team will also be missing Tiago Ilori (groin) and Jose Crespo.
Ciaran Clark is suspended and Micah Richards is doubtful due to a knee problem, although Garde has not ruled out the former Manchester City player being passed fit to play.
Villa’s veteran forward Gabby Agbonlahor will return to selection contention, having recovered from a calf problem.
Southampton meanwhile must continue to make do without long-term injury victims Fraser Forster (knee) and Jay Rodriguez (ankle/foot).
Jose Fonte missed the defeat to Liverpool after receiving stitches for a cut above his knee. It remains to be seen if he will recover in time to take on Villa.
Having scored against Liverpool on Wednesday, Saints will look to Sadio Mane again to do the damage in this one.
The Senegalese striker has every reason to be confident of hitting the back of the net against Villa – the 23-year-old netted the fastest hat-trick in Premier League history in the corresponding fixture last season and already has seven goals to his name in all competitions so far this term.
Key Opta stats:
– The last meeting between these two sides saw Sadio Mané net the quickest hat-trick in Premier League history (2m 56s).
– Aston Villa have won five points from their opening 14 games of the season – all seven teams to have won seven points or fewer from their first 14 games of a PL season prior to 2015-16 have been relegated.
– Southampton have netted a league-high seven headed goals; last season they managed a league-low three in total.
– Only League Two side York City (14 games) are currently enduring a longer current winless run than Aston Villa (13 games) in England’s top-four tiers.
– The Villans made made a league-low 33 substitutions this season, four fewer than any other team.
– Since September 28th 2013, only two of Aston Villa’s goals have come courtesy of substitutes (There have been 212 Aston Villa subs made in that time).
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