There are few teams in the Premier League that can look back on the season with a sense of satisfaction like Southampton. Fittingly, after defeats in their opening four games (no team has ever survived after losing the first three) saw them pitched as early relegation candidates the Saints are eight points clear of the drop zone with four games left to play and on course to record their highest league finish for a decade. It’s quite some achievement for club that took the radical decision to swap managers in January. The transition from Nigel Adkins to Mauricio Pochettino has been smoother than anyone could have imagined with the Argentinian currently overseeing a six-match unbeaten run.
In fact few would have predicted this fixture would be a mid-table affair. West Brom have been a model of consistency in the top-flight this term and haven’t slipped into the bottom half since August. The Baggies have stuttered in recent weeks though, managing just one win in their last six games, and generally struggle away from the Hawthorns. With aspirations of beating last seasons 10th placed finish, their highest since 1981, Steve Clarke must get his players’ focus back on the rails if there season is to reap the rewards it has promised.
Southampton have Morgan Schneiderlin available along with Luke Shaw and Guly do Prado, but teenage midfielder James Ward-Prowse is an injury doubt for manager Mauricio Pochettino.
West Brom won’t have captain Chris Brunt (knee) for the trip to the south Coast. Youssuf Mulumbu remains sidelined as he completes the third and final game of his ban.
What the managers said…
“In the next two years I want to be back in the Champions League with Southampton and I believe it’s not unreal. We are a well organised side, with great belief in our abilities and it’s not an accident that we have beaten Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City recently. Why in a couple of years? It might be next year. I think in football if you have to be something, you have to be optimistic – why not dream of big achievements, big goals?” Mauricio Pochettino reveals his lofty ambitions for Southampton (Daily Mail)
“I’d love him to stay here but we have to plan for life without him. Rom has to go back, he is here for a year’s loan. He is their player and he goes back. He is contracted to them and I am 99.9 per cent sure he will do pre-season with Chelsea and then they will decide whether they want to let him out again. We have to develop the squad and build the squad without knowing that.” Steve Clarke admits West Brom are already preparing for life without post-Romelu Lukaku (Mirror Sport)
Pre-match Statistic: Southampton have dropped 29 points from winning positions this season – more than any other team in the Premier League
Prediction: Southampton 2-0 West Bromwich Albion