After rising from the depth of the drop zone to flirting with a top-half position, the last thing Southampton need is to start sliding again. Perhaps a visit from Aston Villa will help avoid that from happening.
The Saints look to prevent a third consecutive Premier League defeat on Saturday by doing the double over a visiting Villa side who have just one win since New Year's Day.
There was a time not too long ago that Southampton (9-4-13) were mired in the relegation zone and manager Ralph Hasenhuttl might have been in danger of a sacking thanks to an 0-2-6 rut. The Saints, though, followed with a 6-1-2 stretch that breathed new life into the club.
Currently, Southampton sit 12th in the table, but have lost three of the last four - including the last two at runaway-league leaders Liverpool and at home versus Burnley. Danny Ings' career-high 15th Premier League goal leveled last weekend's match at Burnley in the 18th minute, but the visitors prevailed with a goal on 60 minutes to earn the 2-1 triumph.
"It's a reminder that if we want to continue to win games in the Premier League, we have to do better than (last weekend)," defender Jannik Vestergaard told Southampton's official website. "I think we should have at least got a point."
The Saints got a full three points from their 3-1 victory over Aston Villa on Dec. 21. Ings netted a brace and Jack Stephens also scored in that contest.
Villa (7-4-15) enter this contest 17th in the Premier League table, one point and one position above the relegation zone. They dropped their second straight contest last weekend, 3-2 at Spurs. It appeared the Villans would at least earn a point until Tottenham stunned the home crowd with the go-ahead goal via Heung-Min Son in the 94th minute to claim the victory.
Aston Villa are amid a 1-1-3 stretch since Jan. 1, and have won just four times within the Premier League since Oct. 19. However, Villa know there is no use in feeling sorry for themselves, especially after last weekend's frustrating finish.
"We have to take the positives as a team, we showed a great performance," keeper Pepe Reina told Aston Villa's official website. "We believe in the three points all the time and that's the only way to keep Villa (in the Premier League). We believe in that."
Jack Grealish, who has a team-leading seven league goals for Villa, recorded one versus Southampton in December and added his sixth assist last weekend against Tottenham.