|Swansea City 1 v 3 Southampton
Saturday, 20th January 2024 Kick-off 12:30
Southampton At Swansea City The Preview
Friday, 19th Jan 2024 07:45
Saints go to South Wales looking to beat the record they equalled last week, but this one might be more difficult given that Russell Martin is returning to the stomping ground that he only left six months ago.
Swansea City are the opponents again just over three weeks since they travelled to St Mary's just after Xmas and left again with a 5-0 defeat, so from this perspective it is easy to assume that this could be an easy game, but there are a few factors in this clash that mean it perhaps won't be so easy.
Firstly Saints form away from home hasn't been as good as it has at what has become fortress St Mary's, in the last 5 away games, we have drawn 4 and won just once, although this isn't a great record in all of those games there was the feeling that we should have got a little more than just 7 out of 15 points. We haven't killed off games on the road as we have done at home in the same period.
So we need to do better on the road.
Secondly there is the fact that Swansea City aren't happy at the way that Russell Martin left and both the fans and some of the players will be looking to put one over him.
Thirdly there is the weight on the shoulders that comes from knowing that if we can come through this game unscathed then we will go down in Southampton FC history as the longest unbeaten run since we joined the Football league just after World War 1.
So that is the downside out of the way.
In the upside is the fact that yes we are unbeaten in 19 League games, yes we are playing with a confidence of a team that has a swagger about it, it believes in the Manager, it believes in the system it is playing and individually the players believe in themselves as well as their strength as a team.
We should go to Swansea with confidence that not only can we break the record, but we can do so with style.
Their is also a new player in the squad, Joe Rothwell who has joined on loan from Bournemouth, whilst he is not exactly a household name, he has been a regular in the Premier League for the Cherries and also has a lot of experience in the Championship at Blackburn Rovers.
I would not think he would start though, there is a lot of competition in the centre of the park, so i would expect him to be on the bench.
I would hope that Russell martin doesn't veer too much from the side that started against Sheffield Wednesday, although that wasn't our biggest win of the season, it was our most comprehensive as a team performance, we truly gelled as a team that day, the back four was not only solid but the full backs got forward to support the forwards, the midfield trio had the right mic of experience, flair and work rate and up front I would say that the attacking trio of Ryan Fraser, Che Adams & Adam Armstrong, is second to none in this division.
So the manager has to resist the impulse to change things, he has to stick with what has worked so well in recent weeks, knowing that he has at least 5 quality proven players on the bench who can come on and not only just add fresh legs, but can change the game.
Keep it simple and don't try to be too clever is the recipe for not only breaking the record, but taking three points that would see us jump above Ipswich again and for two days this time, and given that the Tractor Boys travel to Leicester City on Monday night, there is a good chance that we could hold that position after the weekend's fixtures are completed.
If we can do that it would be a big psychological blow to Ipswich, after being so far ahead in 2nd place for much of the season, they are finding it tough now and this would be a dent to their morale.
In fact if we can do our bit and beat Swansea, then it is a bit of a free hit in that whatever happens at the King Power we will have taken a big step forward, if Ipswich lose we are ahead of them on goal difference, if they draw, then they will go back above us bit with the gap cut to a point and Leicester will have been hauled back to just 8 points and if Ipswich win then we are still in touching distance, but Leicester are now just 7 points ahead.
In the big picture perhaps a draw might be best in the long term.
But as I said first we have to do our bit in South Wales a Swansea side who are still holding out hopes of a surge up the table and a stab at the play offs, in their last five games they have won 2, drawn 2 and lost just once, that being at St Mary's.
They beat West Brom 1-0 last time out at home so they are no pushovers.
But neither are we and we have to keep our good run going and push ourselves into the automatic promotion spots.
I say this a lot but our strength over others is our strength off the bench, on Saturday we are likely to have Charly Alcatraz, Shea Charles, Mason Holgate, Sekou Mara, Jack Stephens and our new signing Joe Lumley and perhaps a youngster or two in Sam Amo- Ameyaw and Tyler Dibling.
Some of our own fans might sneer but most teams in this division would be happy just to have two youngsters of that quality, let along 5 or 6 players of the talent and experience we can call on.
We have shown by the signing of Joe Rothwell that we know where we need to strengthen and hopefully their will be at least another two players in before the end of the transfer window, perhaps three.
We just have to keep believing.
For those travelling take a look at A Rough Guide To Swansea City our tips on all you need to know about getting there and in Swansea itself.
Photo: Action Images
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