Premier League preview: Southampton vs. West Ham United

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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  • Southampton 7th in the PL (34 points)
  • West Ham 6th, five points ahead
  • Saints unbeaten in 4 in the PL; West Ham lost just 1 in last 11
  • First meeting (Dec. 28): West Ham 2-1 Southampton

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Saturday’s battle at St. Mary’s Stadium, between Southampton and West Ham United (Watch live, at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), will showcase a pair of top-seven Premier League sides with hopes and dreams of upsetting the applecart by sneaking into the top-four in the wackiest PL season in recent memory.

Saints’ current four-game unbeaten run, which includes their famous victory at Old Trafford and a scoreless draw at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, put to bed a poor run of results that saw them win just once in eight league games from early November and into the new year. Ronald Koeman‘s side boasts of a defense that ranks in the top-five in goals conceded this season (24 in 24 games) and an attack that ranks seventh in goals scored (32). Graziano Pelle is Southampton’s leading goalscorer this season, but the Italian has failed to find the back of the net in each of his last seven games (413 total minutes). January signing and immediate impact-maker Charlie Austin is back in the PL and expected to be fit for Saturday’s game after suffering a knock in training this week.

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West Ham’s return to winning ways (eight straight without a win, in which they scored a total of four goals, from early November to late December) has, unsurprisingly, coincided with the return of star midfielder Dimitri Payet from an ankle ligament injury. The Hammers have scored 10 goals in the five league games since Payet’s comeback, though the Frenchman has played a part in just two goals himself. A win, coupled with any points dropped by Manchester United this weekend, would see West Ham jump the Red Devils for fifth place in the league table.

On the injury front, only Jay Rodriguez’s name (foot) appears on the latest injury report for Southampton. Meanwhile, West Ham will be without Manuel Lanzini and Diafra Sakho (thigh injuries), while Andy Carroll (hamstring) and Emmanuel Emenike (fitness) are expected to be available for selection.

What they’re saying

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman: “We know what we can expect because it’s not so long ago that we played against West Ham. When we played them away, we had a big disappointment after a great win against Arsenal. I think we deserved much more – we played very well in the first half but we weren’t clinical enough.”

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic: “I am sure every manager when they played against Juventus was saying: ‘Mark [Andrea] Pirlo.’ Yet still Pirlo was always unmarked and after the game the coaches would ask: ‘Why didn’t you mark him?’ The answer is that it is about Pirlo — and now for us, it is about Payet.”

Prediction

When two sides, both of whom are in equally sound form, face off, home-field advantage typically tips the scales in favor of the home side. That hasn’t pertained to West Ham much this year, though, as they’ve already grabbed massive away victories over Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool, among others. Never count out the Hammers away from home. Southampton 1-2 West Ham.