Southampton-Hull City Preview
Hull City boss Steve Bruce has expressed his delight with the way his side has performed during the first three months of the season ahead of Saturday's match against high-flying Southampton at the KC Stadium.
The Tigers (2-5-2) have suffered just one defeat in five Premier League matches and are comfortable in 10th place on 11 points. Hull have taken creditable draws from their last two league matches, which finished 2-2 at home against Arsenal on Oct. 18 and goalless at Liverpool last weekend.
"We have improved and we have the nucleus of a very decent team here," Bruce told his club's official website. "If we can keep working hard and keep improving, then we will only get bigger and better.
"We're young and we're developing, but we look like a Premier League team. We've got good players. We've got players with pace, there's physicality about us. To go to the Emirates and then Anfield and get two results that we deserved is terrific. I'm delighted for all of the players."
Southampton (6-1-2) have won six of their last seven league matches, outscoring opponents 19-3 in that spell, and their performances have been above all expectations under new manager Ronald Koeman, who replaced Tottenham-bound Mauricio Pochettino during the summer.
The Saints followed up their record-breaking 8-0 thrashing of Sunderland at St. Mary's on Oct. 18, with a hard-earned 1-0 home win against Stoke City last weekend, with Senegal forward Sadio Mane scoring the winner with his first goal in English football. The victory over the Potters saw Southampton leapfrog defending Premier League champions Manchester City into second place in the table, and they are just four points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
Southampton's 19 points through nine games represents their best start to a Premier League season.
The Saints also have the best defence in England's top flight by almost any measure. They've conceded just five goals, four fewer than another other team and also lead the division with five clean sheets.
Southampton carried over their impressive league form with a 3-2 win over Stoke City in the League Cup at St. Mary's on Wednesday, with top-scorer Graziano Pelle finding the net twice and Shane Long scoring his first goal for the Saints.
"We would like to get to the final and we would like to win this cup," Koeman told his club's official website after beating the Potters. "It's a European place for next season and we will do everything for that.
"I didn't make a lot of changes but sometimes you need to do that with injuries. We are in a good way. The lads are showing great ambition, they will be tired but if you're winning you're not so tired!"
Hull will be without the injured Michael Dawson (ankle), Nikica Jelavic (knee), Allan McGregor (shoulder), Steve Harper (arm) and Robert Snodgrass (knee), while on-loan midfielder Gaston Ramirez is ineligible to face parent club Southampton.
The Saints have no new injury concerns, with Jay Rodriguez and James Ward-Prowse (both knee) their only two definite absentees.
Southampton took maximum points off Hull last season. They won 4-1 at St. Mary's with Morgan Schneiderlin, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Steven Davis all scoring for the Saints, with Yannick Sagbo netting a consolation goal for the visitors. They completed a league double over the Tigers with a 1-0 victory in East Yorkshire courtesy of Jose Fonte's lone strike on 59 minutes.
The Saints have won five of the last six meetings with Hull.