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Premier League Preview: Southampton v. Tottenham

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Tottenham Hotspur, finally on the mend and nearing a full complement of first-team players, now find themselves without manager Mauricio Pochettino for Saturday’s clash with his former club, Southampton (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), as well as the March 31 trip to Anfield, following his post-game vitriol aimed at referee Mike Dean.

Harry Kane recently returned from six weeks out; Eric Dier is back from both an appendectomy and tonsillitis in quick succession; Victor Wanyama came back from nearly six months out himself; and Dele Alli is set to return on Saturday. The return of first-team figures couldn’t come at a better time for Tottenham, who are winless in their last three Premier League games (two losses), have seen their 10-point lead on all three of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United cut to just three, and must remain fresh ahead of the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League.

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Southampton, on the other hand, are fighting for their PL lives. 17th in the table, just two points and one spot clear of the relegation zone, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side finds itself in the midst of a treacherous run of fixtures: Arsenal and Man United in the rearview mirror; Spurs and Liverpool still to come shortly.

Last weekend’s game at Old Trafford was particularly hard on Saints, as they were great value for a point — if not all three — until the Red Devils broke their hearts very late on.

“It’s really hard. The guys are very, very disappointed after the game and I that they put everything on the pitch that was possible today and showed a fantastic performance,” Hasenhuttl said this week. “Mainly the first half, but also in the second half we showed that we were very, very focused on our match plan and we wanted to get something here. We were not far away from it and also after the 2-1 we did not stop attacking them and creating for us.”

Injuries

Southampton OUT: Mario Lemina (abdomen), Danny Ings (hamstring), Michael Obafemi (hamstring) | Spurs — OUT: Kieran Trippier (leg); QUESTIONABLE: Harry Winks (hip); RETURNING: Dele Alli (hamstring)

What they’re saying

Hasenhuttl, on the defeat at United: “(James Ward-Prowse) scored a fantastic free-kick, it was a gorgeous goal and it’s a pity that Lukaku decided the game for them. “To be proud is one thing but when you wake up tomorrow and you feel that you lost, nobody asks how you lost. It’s like every manager doesn’t like to lose and we had a big chance but it was not enough.”

Pochettino, on leaving Southampton: “A lot of people were disappointed when I left the club and they are not going to forgive, but I still love them. In one year and a half I spent there, it was a great experience. For different circumstances that are difficult to understand, I left the club.”I cried a lot when I left, my family too. It was one of the most important periods in my life. I hope we beat them Saturday, but I wish all the best to them.”

Prediction

Spurs showed a ruthless, a different level of know-how, in surviving and winning in a completely different manner this week away to Borussia Dortmund. Confidence will be sky-high, and Harry Kane looks back to very nearly his best. The mountain will be tough — too tough — for Saints to climb.

Fans who want to try their hand at predicting PL games can down the NBC Sports Predictor app, with a chance to win up to $50,000 each week. Download it on iOS or Google Play.

Hasenhuttl “unbelievably proud” of Southampton’s warriors

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Ralph Hasenhuttl hailed his 10-man Southampton side for digging deep to win away at Leicester City and drag themselves out of the relegation zone. 

Saints were 2-0 up at half time but had Yan Valery sent off in the 45th minute, putting them up against it in the second half. Leicester had 85 percent possession and 19 attempts at goal in the second period, but scored just once as Saints put in a valiant defensive display to secure a huge three points.

Speaking after the game, Hasenhuttl praised the mentality of his players and suggested they rather enjoyed the challenge.

“The second half was getting in the same compact with the defense and to try to defend,” Hasenhuttl said. “This manner and mainly the passion and the mentality was the winner of this game today. I thought we got too early 2-1, so it would be a long time then to get something here. The players enjoyed it. They felt the way we defend it is very difficult for the opponents to score. The longer the game went on, the more stable we were.”

Hasenhuttl also told BBC’s Match of the Day that he is “unbelievably proud” of his players.

“To be manager of this team, it’s a fantastic job,” Hasenhuttl said. “Today they showed their quality. To go 2-0 in the lead at Leicester is not easy and we defended with fantastic commitment.”

This feels like a massive moment in Southampton’s season.

Saints have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League this season but their players stood up to the challenge and were calm despite being pegged back to 2-1 with over 30 minutes remaining. Jan Bednarek, Oriol Romeu, Long, Jannik Vestergaard and Jack Stephens were all impressive as they made sure Hasenhuttl will have a selection dilemma in the weeks to come.

They were without regulars Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Charlie Austin (both suspended), Danny Ings, Michael Obafemi, Mario Lemina, Ryan Bertrand (all injured) and Maya Yoshida (on international duty at the Asian Cup) and had eight players from their famed academy in their 18-man squad. Callum Slattery made his Premier League debut as a sub, while Sam Gallagher played his first minutes of the PL season late on as Hasenhuttl’s squad was stretched to the limit.

No matter who was out there Saints’ players showed they are fighting for their new manager, and Hasenhuttl has now won three of his first seven PL games as Southampton manager. That equals as many victories as Mark Hughes, the man he replaced, managed in 22 matches as Saints boss.

Hasenhuttl has momentum and Southampton now have a favorable run of games with Everton, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City at home, plus a trip to Burnley. The next few weeks are pivotal for their chances of not only staying in the Premier League but pushing themselves into midtable.

Watch Live: Southampton v. West Ham

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Southampton host West Ham United at St Mary’s on Thursday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the festive fixtures just keep on coming in the Premier League.

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Saints have won two on the trot under new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl to lift the gloom gathering over St Mary’s during the past 12 months. Southampton haven’t won three PL games on the spin since May 2016 and they will be desperate to continue to pull further away from the relegation zone.

As for West Ham, Manuel Pellegrini‘s side had their four-game winning streak ended last time out but they’re sitting pretty in midtable.

In team news Southampton make one change as they bring in Mario Lemina for their captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg who is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

West Ham have severe injury issues as Javier Hernandez and Fabian Balbuena join their lengthy injury list and Michail Antonio is at right back.


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Southampton hand Cardiff victory

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  • Paterson scores after Vestergaard howler
  • Hasenhuttl loses on Saints debut
  • Saints have just one win from 16 
  • All 4 of Cardiff’s wins this season have come at home

Cardiff City beat Southampton 1-0 at a rainy Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday, as Callum Paterson scored but he was given a huge helping hand by Jannik Vestergaard.

Cardiff dominated the first half and Southampton the second, and although it looked like it would be a draw Vestergaard’s slip as the last man allowed Paterson to score and lift the Bluebirds further away from the drop zone.

With the win Cardiff move up to 14th place on 14 points, while Southampton remain in the bottom three and have just nine points this season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Cardiff started well and Harry Arter popped up in the box but Alex McCarthy saved his effort calmly.

The Bluebirds continued to cause Saints problems, with Jan Bednarek coming to the rescue after Nathaniel Mendez-Laing surged forward following a mistake from Matt Targett.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Saints worked there way into the game but Cardiff continued to look the most likely and McCarthy again saved Saints. Jacob Murphy looked set to poke home but McCarthy clawed the ball back at the vital moment.

Southampton’s best chance of the first half came and went as a corner looped into the air and found Mario Lemina but he volleyed over the bar. Mendez-Laing then smashed just over the bar before the half.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

After the break Saints dragged themselves back into the game as they had the majority of the play with Nathan Redmond dangerous.

Saints were then livid they did not win a penalty kick as Armstrong went down in the box under a challenge from Victor Camarasa but Jon Moss waved the PK calls away.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Matt Targett then whipped a free kick over the bar but the opening goal of the game came at the other end.

As he went to play the ball back to McCarthy, Vestergaard tripped over his own feet as last man and gave the ball straight to Paterson who scored to send the home fans wild.

Sean Morrison headed a glorious chance wide late on as Cardiff could have wrapped up all three points, but Warnock’s men did hold on for a fourth home victory of the season to spark wild celebrations at the final whistle.

Man Utd comes back to draw Southampton

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  • Armstrong puts Saints up
  • Cedric scores beautiful free kick (video)
  • Lukaku, Herrera level it by halftime

Marcus Rashford set up a pair of goals to answer an early Southampton flurry, as Manchester United drew Saints 2-2 at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

Manchester United pulled into seventh on goals from Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera, and will finish the weekend at least six points back of the Top Four.

Cedric Soares and Stuart Armstrong scored for Southampton, who are a point back of 17th place Huddersfield Town.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Saints took the lead in the 13th minute, with 18-year-old Michael Obafemi taking a couple of touches atop the box before finding Armstrong wide for a low drive past David De Gea.

And outstanding free kick put United in real danger, as Cedric Soares dipped a vicious effort over the wall and inside the near post. De Gea was flailing at the effort, and Saints had a 2-0 lead.

Lukaku scored his first goal since mid-September when he burst onto a deft Rashford touch pass to make it 2-1 in the 34th.

And Rashford set up Herrera for a gorgeous back leg finish with a powerful run into the right side of the box.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Shaw drilled a shot wide of the far post off a 61st minute corner kick as United began to reassert its control of the match.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg took a long shot that De Gea dove to save in the 75th, a up part of a down half to that point.

Saints had another go from distance via Mario Lemina, with De Gea tipping it over the frame.