Southampton face a major battle to stay in the Premier League.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men lost a seemingly must-win encounter at the weekend as they went down 2-1 to fellow strugglers Cardiff City at St Mary’s, and have subsequently dropped into the relegation zone, with 12 games of the season left.
Southampton’s run-in: Arsenal (A), Fulham (H), Manchester United (A), Tottenham Hotspur (H), Watford (A), Brighton & Hove Albion (A), Liverpool (H), Wolves (H), Newcastle United (A), Bournemouth (H), West Ham United (A), Huddersfield Town (H).
Southampton’s run-in is tough.
Games against Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham are unlikely to bear any fruit, while a visit of a Liverpool team fighting for the Premier League title is unlikely to see any points added to the board.
The key games, then, are against Fulham, Newcastle and Huddersfield.
Claudio Ranieri’s team are 19th, seven points behind Southampton and eight adrift of Cardiff. A win over the Cottagers could all but consign them to relegation and would be a major boost to the Saints.
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Rafael Benitez’s side, too, are in danger and sit 16th, just one point clear of the bottom three. A draw seems likely, but do not count out the Saints.
Finally, doomed Huddersfield are sure to be down by the time they visit St Mary’s but Saints may still need three points – expect them to pick them up there.
Predicted points: 12 – Southampton finish on 36 points
Wins over Fulham, Bournemouth and Huddersfield plus draws with Watford, Brighton and Newcastle would see Southampton end the season on 36 points.
That falls short of the mythical 40-point mark that is said to guarantee safety but will surely see them clear of both Huddersfield and Fulham.
Cardiff and Newcastle are just a point clear, while Burnley, Brighton and Crystal Palace are three points above the relegation zone.
It remains to be seen, then, if 36 points will be enough. It was last year when they amassed the same total, but if it isn’t this time around then Saints may well have to take a major scalp between now and the end of the season to guarantee survival.