|Southampton 3 v 3 AFC Bournemouth|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 27th April 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Saints V Bournemouth The Preview
Friday, 26th Apr 2019 13:44
By 5pm on Saturday Saints fans will know whether they can look forward to a season of Premier League football next year or nervously over their shoulders for a week or two yet.
The task for Saints is clear on Saturday, a win would see us on 40 points and although if Cardiff win at Fulham they could still catch us in terms of points, overhauling a goal difference of around the current figure of 18 in our favour would surely be beyond them.
But the nervousness on the part of some Saints fans is based on a dire season and a half ahead of the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl and not on the form we have shown since the Austrian came to the club.
Bournemouth may still be above us but that is based on the form of both the clubs over the whole season, taking the form since the turn of the year and it is a different story.
Since then Saints have gained 22 points from 15 games whilst the Cherries have amassed only 17, in a shorter span over 12 games its Saints 15 Bournemouth 11 and over the last 8 Saints 13 and Bournemouth 7.
The trend is that as the season goes on Saints have got stronger and Bournemouth weaker.
That means that Saints can go into this game with confidence that they can achieve the win and therefore the 3 points that will all but guarantee safety whatever happens with Cardiff and Brighton below us.
The main issue though is injury, Jannik Vestergaard looks again to be missing and that is compounded by the likelihood that Ryan Bertrand may also be absent.
This could mean a rethink for Ralph and a reversal to a back four, his real problem will be replacing Bertrand, with Matt Targett only just returning from injury and not having had any game time for over two months, this could be the real factor on how he chooses to set up the defence Targett is more suited to a back four than operating as a wing back and in any case asking him to put in the extra effort required for that role might be a bit much given his lack of playing time.
In front of the defence though Hasenhuttl has some good decisions to make in how he sets up to attack, Mario Lemina has come back and looked good and will be pushing for a place in the starting line up, Shane Long made a good case on Tuesday and Danny Ings will be looking to be back after being rested at Watford.
Bournemouth themselves have injury problems, on the right hand side full back Adam Smith has been ruled out as has the man who replaced him Junior Stanislas.
The Cherries are a side who play in bursts, they come at you from the kick off, again in the minutes before half time and then repeat that pattern in the second half, Saints fell foul of that a year ago when Bournemouth equalised on the stroke of half time and almost repeated the trick in the final minute with Alex McCarthy producing a great save.
This is the way they play, Eddie Howe gets the best out of the limitations of his squad, it is all about these surges and then soaking up pressure waiting for the next power play.
This is why their results can vary so greatly, why they won 4-0 at Watford and Chelsea plus 5-0 at Brighton but have been well beaten in other games, they don't seem to do things by halves on the road, they either win well or get slaughtered.
This may suit us, if we can hold them our counter attacking can be just as quick with Redmond going on the break and I think we may well see Danny Ings restored to the starting line up as well.
We should go into this game with confidence, we know our weaknesses and like Bournemouth it has often been a case of whether we have got away with it or not, but we are better prepared to cover our weaknesses than they are theirs.
They will be up for it, but then again so will we, you cannot compare the Saints team of a year ago to the one today, Ralph Hasenhuttl has performed miracles and got the team spirit back and in doing so restored the faith of the fans, it will be a different atmosphere around St Mary's on 27th April this year than it was on the 28th last.
At the end of this game we will know whether we are going to creep over the finishing line as we did a year ago or surge across it, the team needs the crowd to be behind it, not to be complacent and drive them on through the bad periods of the game as well as the good.
Hopefully at 5pm we will be celebrating both victory in this game and of almost certain survival, we can then watch the Brighton game and indeed the rest of the season without a care in the World, but the job needs to be done on the pitch first.
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