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Southampton vs Stoke – Match Preview

You can accuse teams and players of being on the beach at this time of the season but the statement can not ring any truer when it comes to Southampton. Obviously their geographical location plays a large part but also the fact that they sit happily in mid table before playing host to Stoke this afternoon.

Mid table is perhaps unfair on Southampton as they sit eighth in the Premier League table and are the best of the non European qualifying teams, they will look to keep hold of that claim as there are three teams that could still realistically finish in that position (Leicester mathematically could but they have a inferior goal difference)

Southampton have been solid if not spectacular this season under Claude Puel and should they maintain eighth place then that coupled with a trip to Wembley in the EFL Cup back in February has to be defined as some form of success. That said though they have gone backwards under Puel in terms of league places.

Maybe though that is an unfair barometer in which to measure the Frenchman as they have been overtaken by Ronald Koeman’s new club Everton, so you could well make the case that it was Koeman who got Southampton punching above their weight in the previous past two campaigns and therefore perhaps Southampton are in a more natural position.

The football has not necessarily been that easy on the eye for the Saints this season and that in itself has put the pressure on Puel’s Southampton stewardship. I do not think he is any immediate danger of losing his job but you do get the feeling that they will have to start next season strongly to ward off any clamour for his departure.

Another man who although not in immediate danger of losing his job is on something not quite resembling terra firma is that of Mark Hughes. His Stoke side currently sit 14th in the table and that is quite the backwards step after three successive 9th place finishes at what is now called the Bet365 Stadium.

Has Hughes perhaps taken Stoke as fair as he can as the club seems to be stuck in something of a halfway house and not really knowing what their identity is. In 2017 can a club really keep continuing to rely on the likes of Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters in the quest for goals, with the talent that Hughes has at his disposal then he really should be getting more from his squad.

But as for so many clubs is the grass greener on the other side and if they were to part company with the former Wales international then you do have to wonder just who they would be able to bring in. Could Marco Silva be the man to take the reigns but then again you get the idea that he may well have set his aims a bit higher.

A win for Stoke could see them finish 11th and give them some extra prize money in the Summer, but will Mark Hughes be the man who gets to spend it. That said I have a feeling that this is going to be not a particularly pretty encounter and will end up being a low scoring draw, might win the last on Match Of The Day award.

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