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Southampton 4 v 2 Sunderland
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 9th March 2024 Kick-off 15:00
Southampton V Sunderland The Preview
Friday, 8th Mar 2024 09:58

Although the fire engines have left the St Mary's vicinity, the game against Sunderland has still not been confirmed as definitely on, but both teams still have to prepare for the game despite the uncertainty.

The big question for Saints supporters is whether the postponement of the game against Preston North End was a help or hindrance, on one hand with all three teams above them winning it saw the points gap widen, although of course we do have a game in hand, also there is the matter of squeezing in another game into an already crowded end of season run in.

But on the other hand we would have gone into the game with two very key player potentially missing, Ryan Fraser would certainly have been out, whilst Kyle Walker Peters, although Russell Martin had hinted on a return after missing the win at Birmingham would probably have also been missing.

So from this perspective, KWP having benefitted from a few more days rest, could well return and the Wee Man will hopefully be fit and available when the fixture is rescheduled.

So like the fans at the moment Russell Martin has to assume the game is on and prepare his squad for it, in this respect my preview for this game is similar to the one for the cancelled Preston fixture, he has to stop jiggling around with the back four and stick with the tried and trusted, our unbeaten run was based on the solid partnership of Jan Bednarek & Taylor Harwood-Bellis to keep messing with that is folly.

The proof of that was at St Andrews last weekend when Harwood-Bellis was effectively played at right back and our back line was disorganised and players did not know their positions of duties, suddenly going from the tightest defence to the weakest, is down to tinkering when there is no need.

So for me the line up is easy

Gavin Bazunu in goal, KWP, Harwood-Bellis, Bednarek & Manning in a back four, if KWP is still out then James Bree or Jack Stephens in at right back.

The central trio of Will Smallbone, Flynn Downes & Stuart Armstrong with a front 3 of Adam Armstrong, Che Adams & David Brooks.

This is our strongest side at present and with no game after this for 3 weeks there is no need to tweak it, no one needs resting we can play our best team and then look to what is probably the strongest bench in the Championship, with the likes of Shea Charles, Joe Rothwell, Sekou Mara, Sulemana & Sam Edozie plus youngsters like Sam Amo-Ameyaw & Tyler Dibling also ready to take their chance if it comes.

Sunderland have drawn their last two League visits to St Mary's, both in the Premier League, but they lost a League cup tie, sandwiched between these two games and of course there was that 8-0 drubbing of them back in 2014.

After our own 5-0 drubbing at the Stadium of Light six months ago repeating that scoreline would be sweet.

Sunderland arrive at St Mary's in 11th place, 10 points behind the play off places and 9 points above the relegation zone, with 10 games left they are almost certainly assured of not finishing in either zone, but they might see this game as their last chance saloon for a push to the play offs or banishing all thoughts of the drop.

A look at their results though, shows that only a few weeks ago they were firmly in the promotion frame, but 5 consecutive defeats, three of them 1-0 and the other two 2-1, have seen them drop right out.

So a quick glance at their form table suggests that Saints can make it 6 defeats in a row for them, especially when you look further and see they have lost 7 out of their last 10 league games.

However all 7 games have been by a single goal, either 1-0 or 2-1, they might be a side who have forgotten how to win, but they are one that is very hard to beat as Leicester found out on Tuesday evening in their 1-0 up on Wearside.

So this will not be an easy game and it is good to see that St Mary's is completely sold out for this one, even on the ticket exchange there are few selling, with Saints getting back block 43 from Sunderland, we have more fans than usual in the ground.

Our new CEO thinks that creating a red & white wall is as simple as moving the away fans and giving Saints fans a home end, he is sadly misguided, we already have a home end, in fact we have 3 1/2 sides of the stadium as home sections.

Creating atmospheres is not about sections of the ground, it is about people and now Saints fans have a chance to show that they can make as much noise as anyone else as the team goes into the last quarter of the season.

St Mary's needs to be a wall of sound, a sea of red & white and the backing given by Saints fans at Birmingham last week needs to be replicated at home and hopefully will be in the coming weeks.

Photo: Action Images

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JoeEgg added 11:18 - Mar 8
"St Mary's needs to be a wall of sound"

Maybe - but the players and manager have the greater responsibility. Losing at home to both Millwall and Hull is unacceptable for a team looking for any kind of promotion.
There can be no excuses on Saturday - we shall then know for certain if we are good enough for promotion this season.

highfield49 added 12:39 - Mar 8
Is he injured, suspended, ill or is there some other reason why Joe Aribo isn't available for the game Nick? Poor guy seems to be sidelined even when he's scored winning goals.

obelisk added 17:10 - Mar 8
It's now a game in hand but automatic promotion was lost when RM indulged in playing at tinkerman yet again.
Best now to just take each game as a step towards the play-offs. In order to win those games we need to stop conceding and to start converting those chances.
Personally I expect Saints to be playing Pimpley in the Championship next season with a much weaker squad. That can be directly laid at the door of last season's mismanagement.

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