Southampton sit sandwiched between Liverpool and Tottenham only five points adrift of the Champions League places. And although it seems unlikely that the Saints will be able to make up the deficit it is still possible.
Liverpool who are just a point in front are the team everyone believes can still challenge for the honour with Spurs outsiders, but I believe that it is Ronald Koeman’s men who deserve to break into the top four more than those two.
Both Spurs and Liverpool tend to compete season after season for those precious four places and while they have achieved their goal in the last few years it is always followed by a disappointing campaign.
Liverpool finished last season just two points away from winning the title after a blazing Premier League campaign which saw their affectionately termed SAS trio named as the best attacking line up of the year. Luis Suarez’s massive goals tally was a big reason why the Reds achieved so much last season and his departure proved costly. But that was Liverpool’s mistake. They didn’t plan well for the loss of Suarez and have been punished for that failure all season.
Tottenham’s problem has been their numerous disappointing players who they continually fail to offload. Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and Paulinho were all brought into White Hart Lane under Andre Villas-Boas but have never reached the highs expected of them. Since his appointment last summer manager Mauricio Pochettino has made the Lilywhites more solid and they are fortunate to have the talented young forward Harry Kane in the squad as they’d be utterly lost without his influence.
But the Saints still deserve to finish above them as they have been punching above their weight all year holding on even when key players were losing confidence. Southampton under Koeman have shown a huge amount of courage to overcome the summer exodus of key players such as Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw who joined so called bigger clubs in a desperate bid for trophies and higher wages.
Southampton still have a few difficult games before the end of their season notably welcoming top four challengers Tottenham to St Mary’s and a trip to the Etihad on the final day. Considering that the Saints have won three of their last five shows that they are looking to end their campaign strongly and a Europa League position is the very least that they deserve.
And if that is the tournament they get then it will still be a triumph for a team which finished 8 last season and that no one expected to stand a chance of even making it that high this time around. Maybe a run in the Europa League would be a good introduction to European football before attempting an assault on the main tournament. Right now they’re on course to do just that and Ronald Koeman and his men should be proud to have proved all of the doubters wrong.