While the battle at the top of the Premier League was pretty much over before it began, it’s the other end of the table where the real action is right now, as teams get set to play their final couple of games of the 2017/18 campaign.
One side who have struggled all season is Southampton, and after sacking manager Mauricio Pellegrino back in March, Mark Hughes was brought in to help them beat the drop, but can he pull it off?
As things stand, The Saints are out of the bottom three but only on goal difference, after they swapped places with Swansea this weekend. Southampton had been on the verge of a huge result away at Everton, with a 1-0 victory looking to be in the bag. Then, disaster struck, after Maya Yoshida picked up a second yellow and was dismissed. This was cruelly followed up by a 96th minute Tom Davies leveller, which sees both Southampton and Swansea tied on 33 points.
Southampton travel to Swansea next time out, in what is the biggest game of the season, for both sides. Looking at Southampton’s recent performances, especially the one at Goodison Park, you’d certainly fancy The Saints to give Swansea a real game at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea have been notoriously hard to beat at home since Carlos Carvalhal arrived at the club in January, but form is likely to go out of the window in this relegation six-pointer.
Losing Yoshida is obviously a big blow to Southampton’s chances, with Jack Stephens likely to replace him, but Hughes knows that this is a must-win game for his side. After the Swansea game, Hughes and Co will be welcoming champions Manchester City to St Mary’s, and the likelihood is that they will struggle to take anything from Pep Guardiola’s side, who look eager to end the campaign as strongly as possible.
So, you could say that everything rests on the game against fellow strugglers Swansea, and Southampton certainly have a great chance of winning that’s for sure. At times, the Swansea players haven’t really looked up for the fight and their shyness in front of goal has really cost them over the last few weeks. If Southampton can keep things tight at the back, they will have a great chance when it comes to taking all three points, especially if they can fashion chances for Charlie Austin up front.
If The Saints can only manage a draw, or if they lost the game, they would then be relying on other results going in their favour which wouldn’t be ideal. While they have a tough game on the last day of the season, Swansea face off against already relegated Stoke. The only other hope would be that Huddersfield, who have a tough run of games themselves, are sucked into the mire. Southampton’s next game is huge and Hughes will be treating it as a must-win fixture.