Ronald Koeman is confident his Southampton players will be physically ready to face West Ham at Upton Park on Monday following the exertions of their emphatic Boxing Day win over Arsenal.
The Saints boss was critical of the hectic festive schedule prior to Saturday’s Premier League clash with Arsene Wenger’s men, claiming the quick turnaround in fixtures made it “impossible” to play the same starting XI.
But the Dutchman knows his side travel to the capital brimming with confidence after thrashing the title hopefuls 4-0 at St Mary’s Stadium, a result that signalled Southampton’s first win in their last six league games.
“It was a tough physical test [against Arsenal],” manager Koeman told Southampton’s official YouTube channel.
“It’s about 45 hours that we have until Monday. We have to recover. It is not a problem, they are good physical football players and we have to be prepared for Monday, but it makes it a little bit more easier with the [Arsenal] result.”
Koeman has confirmed defender Cedric Soares (groin) and striker Graziano Pelle (knee) will again be absent, but he will be heartened by Shane Long taking full advantage of a first-team recall in the absence of the latter by netting twice against Arsenal.
The Republic of Ireland international, who also hit the post, said: “I played well, I caused them problems and obviously to get the two goals is always nice. I’m feeling good about my play at the moment.”
Victory over Arsenal – sealed courtesy of Long’s brace, a Cuco Martina wonder strike and a Jose Fonte header – lifted Southampton to within two points of 10th-placed West Ham, who were left frustrated after being held 1-1 at rock-bottom Aston Villa last time out.
That made it five league draws in a row for Slaven Bilic’s side and the London club have never drawn six on the bounce in the top flight.
An eight-game winless streak is proving a major test for Bilic, as is the deepening injury crisis he faces.
Bilic – already without the likes of Diafra Sakho, Dimitri Payet and Andy Carroll – lost defensive duo James Tomkins and Aaron Cresswell at Villa Park, with the latter having put West Ham in front.
A clash of heads left Tomkins sporting a swollen black eye, while Cresswell limped off with a minor muscular issue. Bilic will make late checks on the pair.
Reflecting on failing to build on his first league goal of the season, Cresswell told West Ham’s official website: “It’s bitterly disappointing we didn’t hold onto the lead and take the three points.
“That said, it’s another point on the board and we’ve got a lot of games coming up over the next two weeks and we’ve got to look forward to Southampton now.”
Key Opta stats:
– None of the last 12 Premier League games between these two at Upton Park have ended in a draw (nine wins for West Ham).
– Southampton have lost just one of their last five Premier League trips to London (W3 D1 L1).
– West Ham are unbeaten in their last six Premier League home games, but four of these have been draws (W2 D4 L0).
– The last time that West Ham won their final league game of a calendar year was in December 2008 (2-1 v Stoke City).
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