Hull City-Southampton Preview
Don't let Southampton or Hull City hear you say there is no excitement left in this Premier League season.
Though Chelsea are running away with the title, and the remaining Champions League spots seem all but settled, there is much on the line at St. Mary's on Saturday.
On 53 points, Southampton (16-5-10) need just one more win to match last season's points total, their best in the Premier League era.
Of more concern to the Saints though, is leapfrogging Liverpool and Tottenham, each on 54 points, into fifth place and the Europa League berth that comes with it.
Hull (6-10-15) have concerns too, as QPR and Aston Villa's midweek 3-3 draw did nothing to alleviate their relegation fears, keeping the Tigers right in the thick of it.
The need to take points at home has become more pressing for Southampton and manager Ronald Koeman having gone winless in their last three away games, losing two and drawing the other.
"I think the home games, we have to win all of them and maybe win one or two away games," Koeman told the official club website. "Then for sure you play European football. The target is to win at least the home games.
"We have looked comfortable at home in the last two games. We know the system that Hull is using normally. It's most of the time five defenders and there is not a lot of space. Then you have to do good movements in the right moments."
Southampton endured a frustrating afternoon last Saturday when they fell 1-0 to Everton via a Phil Jagielka goal from the Merseysiders' only shot on target
"We have a little bit more difficulty in creating enough chances to score and we have to work on that," said Koeman. "Then it's all about the performance, but we know and the experience now is that we know how teams will play. We have to handle that in a better way."
Like the Saints, Hull come into the game having lost their last match and Tigers defender Michael Dawson issued a rallying cry in the wake of that 3-1 loss at Swansea.
"We've got seven cup finals coming up and that is what it all boils down to now," Dawson told the official club website. "We have to show the mental strength that you need week in and week out in the Premier League. You play for your team and your mate alongside you. That is why you have to give everything."
Southampton will still be without starting goalkeeper Fraser Forster (knee). Forwards Emmanuel Mayuka (groin) and Jay Rodriguez (knee), plus midfielder Filip Djuricic (ankle) are also likely to miss out but Steven Davis and Florin Gardos are set to return.
Nikica Jelavic and Robert Snodgrass are both out for Hull with knee injuries. Irish midfielder David Meyler is suspended for three games after his sending off against Swansea, while on-loan Gaston Ramirez can't play against his parent club.
With so much at stake, expect a feisty affair Saturday. Hull lead the Premier League in red cards with six, while Southampton are placed third in fouls committed (385), narrowly ahead of Hull in fourth place (379).
The Tigers have been somewhat toothless in their encounters with Southampton in recent times. They have lost all five meetings since their last victory over Saturday's opponent in the Championship in 2008, including the three previous Premier League meetings.
A Victor Wanyama strike three minutes into the match was enough to separate the sides in the reverse fixture at the KC Stadium in November.