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Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Southampton

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  • Foxes won 4-1 on Dec. 13 at St. Mary’s
  • Southampton five points back of 17th
  • Saints lead all-time 32W-27D-26L

Southampton is running out of time to save its Premier League status, and makes up its match-in-hand on several clubs with a visit to Leicester City at King Power Stadium on Wednesday (Watch live at 2:45 p.m. ET, online via NBC Sports Gold).

Saints are five points back of 17th place Swansea City, though the Welsh side has also played 33 matches. They are six points behind Crystal Palace and seven back of Huddersfield Town and West Ham United.

Leicester is eighth after losing to Burnley, its Europa League hopes dashed with Everton and Newcastle nipping at their heels.

What they’re saying

Leicester City’s Claude Puel on finishing strong: “The right way, it is important to keep this momentum until the end and we will see when the players start in the game. [They must] give their best and maintain a good level in the team. We keep a serious ambition and we need to secure our place in the top half of the table. A lot of teams are close behind us so we need to continue.”

Saints’ Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on life in the relegation fight“The next few weeks is life-changing. Wherever our paths go, and wherever all our ways go, whether it’s short-term or long-term, this will all change our lives, this will all change our way of looking on football. I promise you, I promise to the fans, and I promise to the people standing outside, there is not one single person inside here who wants to be in this situation. There is not one person who actually thinks ‘Oh, this may be good for me in a way.’ Everyone is suffering.

Prediction

Claude Puel will be further motivated to get over on his old side, but Saints have a lot of firepower for what should be a wide-open game against sometimes-dicey back lines (often dicey in the case of Southampton). 2-2.

“A new impulse” – Hughes, Hojbjerg hope to ride Saints momentum

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It’s safe to say this is a season neither Mark Hughes nor Southampton had planned when it began this summer.

Saints are plodding along near the bottom of the table for most of the campaign while Hughes was fired from his post as Stoke City boss as his club found a similar level of underachievement.

[ MORE: USMNT names squad for friendly ]

Now both have a chance to stay in the Premier League together, and took a decent step in establishing some positive momentum with a 2-0 FA Cup win over Wigan Athletic on Sunday.

“I think I speak on everyone’s behalf when I say it has been positive,” said Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. “It is a new impulse, new energy, good vibes, a fresh start. He worked a lot on intensity and discipline, and the desire to go the extra yards as individuals and as a team.

“We have some really good players and maybe this is the perfect fit, nothing is perfect in this world but it’s a good start, let me just say that.”

As for Hughes, his hiring comes straight out of the relegation scrap playbook. And it comes as no surprise he’s following it to a T when it comes to post-match talk.

He’s starting with the fans.

“We thank each and every one of them,” Hughes said, “Because it’s clearly not been an easy period for anybody with allegiances to Southampton FC.

“I like to think this was a reflection of what this group can do for them – we just need their support from now until the end of the season.

“If we get that, which I’m sure we will on the evidence of today, and everybody’s in it together, we will be fine.”

It is absurdly early in Hughes stint to make judgments, but Sunday’s win is a positive start. Next up is a critical tilt at West Ham on March 31, and a win will push Saints ahead of their hosts.

WATCH: Southampton team goal a thing of wonder

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Southampton’s goal woes met Everton’s

Saints entered the match averaging less than a goal a game, and St. Mary’s hadn’t been a fertile pitch for the South Coast club.

The visitors arrived having conceded almost two per game.

Something had to give, and early on it was the Toffees.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg helped started a one-touch play that found Ryan Bertrand down the left wing.

The England back’s wonderful sweeping pass found Dusan Tadic in the middle of the box, and the Serbian bodied off Leighton Baines before scooting the ball under Jordan Pickford.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Southampton

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  • Chelsea won 2-0 on Oct. 30
  • Saints won fixture 3-1 last season
  • Chelsea 13W-2L at home this season
  • Blues lead all-time 40W-28D-28L

Chelsea aims to stack some wins following a momentum-restoring weekend win when Southampton visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday (Watch live at 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues have lost two of four inside the Premier League — home to Crystal Palace and at Manchester United — but beat Spurs 4-2 in a thrilling FA Cup semifinal this weekend, extending their season to a May 27 final against Arsenal.

Saints are coming off their first loss in four outings, a 3-0 home beatdown at the hands of Manchester City. Now to the road, where Southampton has the eighth-best record in the Premier League. And Saints boast Manolo Gabbiadini, who Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says has one of the world’s best left foots.

What they’re saying

Chelsea’s David Luiz on Antonio Conte“He’s a fantastic person before a fantastic manager, so we talk a lot, every day, because we have a great relationship,’ he explained. We try to give our best for our club and he tries to help me with his intelligence for football to improve my football so I am very happy to work with him. He did an amazing job in this game.”

Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on facing Chelsea“Of course, you say every game is important, but somehow, when you play against number one, it gets a little bit more important. I saw the game they lost against Manchester United, and now they are a little bit under pressure, and we also want to continue getting good results. Chelsea away is, of course, maybe the toughest game this year, but I think that we have the possibility to get the result.”

Prediction

Rested Southampton provides a real test, but one which Chelsea finds a way to pass thanks to a relatively rested Costa and Hazard. This is Costa’s day, with a brace in a 2-1 win.

Southampton sign Danish midfielder Hojbjerg from Bayern Munich

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Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has become Southampton’s second signing of the summer.

The Danish international midfielder, 20, completed his $15 million move to Southampton from Bayern Munich on Monday and bolsters Saints’ midfielder options after they lost Victor Wanyama to Spurs earlier this summer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo’s inspiring speech ]

New Saints manager Claude Puel has only had just over a week of training with his new squad but the former Nice manager has a long history of working with talented youngsters and getting the best out of him.

Hojbjerg, already a full Danish international who has 15 caps to his name, will be hoping he can follow in the footsteps of Thierry Henry and Eden Hazard who flourished under Puel’s guidance.

Speaking to the club’s website, Hojbjerg revealed his desire to join the south coast club.

“I’m very pleased. It’s a big opportunity for me. I look forward to giving what I have and what I can to the club. They have put trust in me and I want to show them that they are not wrong,” Hojbjerg said. “When I heard that Southampton came in for me I said to my people that this is what I want to do because I can see myself at Southampton, as it’s the way I like to think, the way I like to play and it fits me really well. I hope I can come here also and be a part of the Southampton family and give what I have to fight for the club and fight for my teammates.”

Hojbjerg struggled to break into Pep Guardiola’s team but is highly thought of at Bayern and spent the last two seasons on loan at Augsburg and Schalke in the Bundesliga.

Some might think he’s a replacement for Wanyama but Hojbjerg is said to be much more influential in the attacking third of the pitch than Saints’ former Kenyan destroyer.

The Dane became the youngest-ever player to play for Bayern in the Bundesliga when he made his debut as a 17-year-old in 2013 but has found chances tough to come by in recent seasons with the likes of Xabi Alonso, Philipp Lahm and David Alaba around.

Southampton have sold three key players this summer — Graziano Pelle sealed his move to China on Monday, following Sadio Mane and Wanyama through the exit door st St Mary’s — but they have continued their process of replacing outgoing players with youngsters.

Hungry and eager to kick his career on, this seems like a good landing spot for Hojbjerg and Saints alike as they’ve also added promising English winger Nathan Redmond to replace Mane earlier this summer.

Saints do things a little differently to most PL clubs and although some pundits may be concerned about them selling Pelle, Mane and Wanyama, seven-straight seasons of finishing in a higher league position than the previous year shows that the St Mary’s club know what they’re doing.

For now.