Southampton v Brighton: Saints can hold off south coast rivals in crunch clash

Andrew Atherley says Southampton can take a big step towards safety in Sunday's lunchtime kickoff...

Dramatic slump

Southampton have slumped dramatically since beating Liverpool 1-0 at home in their first match of 2021, having taken only four points from 11 games since then.

Ralph Hasenhuttl's team headed into this weekend in 14th on 33 points following Wednesday's 5-2 defeat at Manchester City and could find themselves in serious trouble if they do not arrest the slide soon.

Hasenhuttl may well have been targeting this fixture when he did not include Ibrahima Diallo, Kyle Walker-Peters or Takumi Minamino in his starting line-up against City.

All three have been working their way back to full fitness and are likely to start this crunch match.

Moussa Djenepo suffered a groin injury against City and is sidelined along with striker Danny Ings. Nathan Tella could come back to partner Che Adams up front.

Limited options

Brighton victory would turn up the heat on Southampton, putting them four points behind their south coast rivals with a game in hand.

Wins have been hard to come by, however, and Graham Potter's side have been caught up by Fulham after a winless run of five games that yielded only two points.

Despite mounting criticism of his results, Potter could well name the same starting XI that took an early lead at home to Leicester last weekend before losing 2-1.

His options are limited by a lengthy injury list, notably Tariq Lamptey being out for the season, but a possible change is to restore Danny Welbeck to a starting place in attack.

Glimmers of hope

Southampton were looking at a place in Europe at Christmas when they were seventh in the table with 14 games played, but they have taken just nine points from their subsequent 14 matches.

Their early-season form seems irrelevant now and many will find them hard to fancy after losing nine of their last 11 league games, beating only bottom club Sheffield United (2-0 away) during that disastrous run.

The only glimmers of hope are that their FA Cup form has been good, with wins over Arsenal and Wolves in the last two rounds taking them to the quarter-finals, and they have scored in five of their last seven league games.

Against that, the sole clean sheet in their last 11 league games was against Sheffield United and that is a concern as even when they were going well most of their wins were founded on good defence.

This season they have won only two out of 19 when conceding, although it is worth noting that one of those was the 2-1 win at Brighton in the reverse fixture on December 7.

That defeat for Brighton highlighted the sense that they have been unlucky at times (Southampton's winner came from a contentious late penalty) but have often not helped themselves (they won the shot and corner count but could not convert their chances).

They have not scored more than once in any of their last 10 league matches (since the 3-3 at home to Wolves on January 2) and, like Southampton, that leaves them vulnerable when they are unable to keep a clean sheet.

Potter's team have not won when the opposition have scored since the 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on November 21 and their record when conceding since then is W0 D5 L7.

It is hard to be too confident about either side, but Southampton have at least been scoring recently and are worth chancing off 0 on the Asian handicap at 2.12.

The Saints have the more reliable attackers and even their defence might be able to hold out against misfiring Brighton, just as it did against Sheffield United recently.

Goals hard to find

Both teams rank towards the higher end for matches with under 2.5 goals. Southampton have had 57% in that category and Brighton 56%.
Southampton are even stronger in that direction at home with 62%.

The class of opposition is also a factor. Both teams have had 63% under 2.5 goals against teams below the top eight.

Under 2.5 goals is clear favourite at 1.66 and under 1.5 goals is worth considering at 2.98.

Opta Stat

All three of Brighton's Premier League away games against Southampton have been draws, with the Seagulls opening the scoring in two of those and coming from two goals down in the other. The draw is 3.25.

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