There will still be time to make amends, but Saturday’s clash at the London Stadium feels like an all-or-nothing encounter for West Ham and Southampton.
A win will give them three vital points and a huge boost of confidence ahead of tricky final run-ins; a defeat will cement them at the very heart of the Premier League’s relegation battle with just a handful of games remaining.
So, ahead of what appears a season-defining fixture for both clubs, which manager faces the bigger injury problems, how will they look to set up their sides, and who enters the 3pm kickoff in better form? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of West Ham vs Southampton…
Recent form doesn’t make particularly positive reading for either side heading into the weekend. While Saints will feel somewhat more positive than West Ham, having lost just twice in their last six Premier League games and sealed a huge win over Wigan before the international break, there has been a mere two-point difference from their previous six results in the top flight. That is despite Liverpool being the only member of the big six either club has faced during that time.
In terms of clean sheets and goals scored too, the gap between the Hammers and Saints is once again marginal – they’ve picked up just one clean sheet apiece, while Southampton have netted one more than West Ham’s miserly six strikes. Scoring goals has been a real problem for both teams; although West Ham at least boast two players with two goals to their name, Southampton’s top scorer from the last six has been centre-back Jack Stephens. Accordingly, Saints fans will be desperate for Charlie Austin to return to the fold this weekend.
Having lost the last three games by conceding a staggering eleven goals, we’re predicting a real shakeup from David Moyes this Saturday – not least because he’ll have some key players absent through injury as well. Indeed, although there are only three changes in personnel from the starting XI that lost 3-0 to Burnley last time out, the structure of the team could drastically change from a dysfunctional 3-4-3 to a 4-2-3-1.
That should give West Ham more offensive threat with Javier Hernandez brought back into the team to lead the line, closely supported by three attacking players in Michail Antonio, Marko Arnautovic and Joao Mario. The other big talking point is who will start between the sticks. After failing to get on the pitch for England and committing a huge error against the Clarets before the international break, we’re tipping Adrian to come in for Joe Hart.
Having picked up a momentum-building 2-0 win over Wigan using 4-4-2, we’re expecting Mark Hughes to stick to the same system for a game that Southampton really need to win, once again addressing Saints’ shortage of goals this season by deploying two strikers with Manolo Gabbiadini tucking in just behind January signing Guido Carrillo.
In fact, the only predicted change from the starting XI at the DW Stadium is winger Nathan Redmond coming in for Sofiane Boufal. The Moroccan showed glimpses of his quality against the League One outfit but after an hour was replaced by the English attacker – who linked up with Cedric Soares to assist the Portuguese international for the late second goal.
Of course, the big selection question rests on Charlie Austin, Saints’ top scorer this season who has been sorely missed in recent months. We reckon a starting berth will be just too much for him, but if he’s available Hughes will surely include the former QPR man in the matchday squad.