Southampton start 2018 not having won any of their last eight Premier League matches and they find themselves hovering precariously near to the drop zone, a situation that if results go against them this evening could seriously worsen.
Especially as this evening sees them play host to a Crystal Palace side who will not only be buoyed by the fact that they were the first team in 19 attempts to stop Manchester City from successive wins but also that they themselves are in need of points to steer clear of the bottom three.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s men were soundly beaten on Boxing Day at Wembley after a rampant performance from Harry Kane for Tottenham and there was no doubting that the Argentine former Alaves boss was under pressure to mastermind a positive performance in their final outing of 2017.
They may not have been able to pick up a win last Saturday but they did at least earn a hard fought point against Manchester United at Old Trafford, one that at the time saw them move up to 13th in the table. However with teams playing yesterday that has now turned into 15th place instead.
Not only that but they will be very much looking over their shoulders with the fact that both Crystal Palace and West Ham are two points behind and a win for each of the London duo would see them slip to 17th while only being kept afloat by the fact that Stoke have a truly awful goal difference.
Southampton have now received the windfall from Virgil Van Dijk after his move to Liverpool yesterday and with £67.5m going on to St Mary’s it is fair to say that it will be burning a huge hole in the pocket of manager Mauricio Pellegrino.
One of the targets he has identified is that of former Saint Theo Walcott who has been linked with either a loan move or a permanent capture depending on which source you choose to believe. However this game has come around too soon for reinforcements as Crystal Palace come to town.
The Premier League as a collective would have given them a huge metaphorical pat on the back after their draw on New Year’s Eve at home to the all conquering Manchester City but of course Roy Hodgson knows that he could and very well should have been all three points.
That is because late on Raheem Sterling bundled Wilfiried Zaha down in the box and Referee Jon Moss had little hesitation in pointing to the spot. However though it was more penalty woe though as this was the second spot kick missed at Selhurst Park this season by the Eagles.
Earlier in the campaign it was Christian Benteke who saw an effort saved, once again one that ultimately cost Palace two important points as a likely win turned into a frustrating draw and this time it was the usually trusted Serbian Luka Millivojevic who saved his effort saved. In truth thought it was a poor spot kick as the chance for a dramatic win evaporated.
The resulting continuation of play after the save saw Jason Puncheon carry out a reckless tackle on Kevin De Bruyne, how he got just a booking for it I will never know. It would have better been unnoticed as now the midfielder subsequently avoids any retrospective punishment for what was an awful attempt to win the ball. Truth be told it wasn’t even an attempt to win it.
Credit must go to Crystal Palace for at least taking the game to Manchester City on Sunday but that is now four points that they have let slip through their fingers because of poor penalties. They seem to enjoy making life harder for themselves.
It’s not quite a do or die fixture this evening but nevertheless the stakes are certainly high, this almost has the air of must not lose instead of must win and therefore I have a feeling that these two sides will cancel each other out and have to make do with a share of the points.