Southampton hoping to end on a high
With Saturday's opponents, Swansea, now mathematically safe from relegation, you could be forgiven for thinking that Southampton were heading into something of a dead rubber. Southampton are looking to make sure there is a party atmosphere, at least, giving traveling fans tickets and travel for just 10 pounds -- including lunch, a pint and a mask of one of the current playing squad. A great gesture, but what fans of both clubs will truly be hoping for is an enthralling contest.
Both clubs are often praised for their brand of football, which might lead you to assume that this will be an open, free-flowing game, but previous meetings have flattered to deceive. With both clubs left with little to play for other than professional pride, the fear is surely that the game will be more of the same.
When the fixtures were released back in the summer, no one associated with Southampton was expecting to come to the Liberty Stadium to face old boy Garry Monk in the opposition dugout. Whether Monk will get the job on a permanent basis is yet to be seen, but it was a brave decision by Swansea to take a chance on a young English coach given their precarious position at the time. It has been somewhat of a role reversal for Saints and their Welsh opponents this season. Swansea were everyone's second team in the last campaign, a role that Southampton have assumed over the past nine months. They should look at how Swansea have responded to their "hangover season" and try to learn from their mistakes. The South Coast side, of course, won't have the added strain of the Europa League, something which I'm sure has had a negative effect on Swansea's league position. Couple that with the long absence of talisman Michu and you can see why they have underperformed in comparison with the previous season.
If there will be one clear danger man in the home team's lineup, it will certainly be Wilfried Bony. I'm a big admirer of the Ivorian striker and think he would be the ideal man to join Saints in the summer -- although that's highly unlikely.
The hosts have an inconsistent home record of late, and with Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino's men still chasing a club-record Premier League points haul, they must see this as a chance to take it before a tricky final game with Manchester United.