This fixture is undoubtedly the pick of the evening, as 1st place Southampton host a West Ham side who are just one position below them. It seems funny to remember that two divisions separated these clubs last season, yet now it’s just two points. Many pundits are amazed at the progress Southampton have made considering the fact they were in League One last season and this fixture will provide them with a perfect platform to prove just how far they have come.
Nobody really expected Southampton to struggle this season, with Saints proving last year that they were a well organized unit with several good players. However, after investing very little in the transfer market, nobody could have imagined this situation which puts the club top of the table with a hugely impressive goal difference of +13. Nigel Adkins’ men will certainly approach this game with great confidence behind them, with the club coming off the back of a 1-1 draw with fellow high flyers Derby and a 4-0 victory over Watford. Looking at their form from a different perspective though, Saints have won just once in their last four and that could have caused some slight concern amongst Adkins and his staff.
West Ham on the other hand are doing as everyone expected and launching a serious bid for automatic promotion. After keeping several of their key players from last season and recruiting Sam Allardyce to lead the push, there was never any doubt that the Upton Park outfit would be there or thereabouts by the end of the campaign. However, while they do sit in an extremely promising position, Allardyce will also have slight reservations about his side’s recent form. Over the last three games the Hammers have won just the one fixture, although they did manage to record an emphatic 4-0 victory over Blackpool on Saturday which will have undoubtedly settled a few nerves.
As for team news, Southampton are hopeful of including Adam Lallana after he missed the last game through a foot problem. However, Frazer Richardson remains a doubt after being substituted against Derby at the weekend, meaning that Danny Butterfield could start. West Ham also have a couple of concerns with James Tomkins and Matt Taylor both set to miss out as injuries hinder them. However, with the likes of Henri Lansbury, Carlton Cole and Joey O’Brien waiting in the wings, Sam Allardyce certainly has a wealth of adequate reinforcements.
Both of these sides have started the campaign in superb fashion although we think Southampton’s home advantage will play a huge role in this fixture. Saints’ form may have dried up recently, but we think they’ll bounce back and record a 1-0 win in this clash.