Southampton-Watford Preview

Southampton look to reach the 40-point plateau and all but mathematically assure themselves of top-flight safety at the expense of relegation-threatened Watford on Sunday when the two sides clash at Vicarage Road.

The Saints (11-4-16) are 10 points clear of the drop with seven matches remaining and have split their two matches in Project Restart. They were unable to build on their rout of Norwich City, losing 2-0 at home to Arsenal on Thursday.

Keeper Alex McCarthy's ill-advised pass trying to build out of the back went straight to Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah for the match's first goal, and Jack Stephens' hauling down from behind of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang late resulted in both a red card and a second Gunners goal that put the match out of reach for Southampton.

"We are also not 100% safe and we need points, so if you go there and think you can just play football then you are wrong, you must take the fight there and if you don't, you have no chance," Southampton gaffer Ralph Hasenhuttl said at his Saturday press conference.

"We must invest more, sprint more and play better than we did against Arsenal. They have a few good players in transition after winning balls and have quick counter-attacks, so this is what makes them so dangerous at times."

Stephens will sit due to his red card, and striker Moussa Djenepo will complete his three-match ban for a red card given in March in a loss to Newcastle United. Hasenhuttl is also sweating the fitness of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Sofiane Boufal for this contest, with Hojbjerg forced off Thursday with an ankle injury and Boufal hoping to avoid missing a second straight match due to a thigh injury.

The Saints have claimed 23 of their points on the road this term (7-2-6), with their win over the Canaries their fifth in the last seven in league play outside St Mary's.

Watford (6-10-15) remain in the thick of a five-team relegation scrap, one point above the drop in 16th place. The Hornets have failed to fire since returning to action with one point in their two matches and are coming off a 1-0 setback at Burnley on Thursday.

Once more a paucity of chances hurt Nigel Pearson's side as they accrued just four shots on target for a third straight contest, and it was the ninth consecutive match they accumulated five or fewer shots on goal.

"I feel it's a bit of a missed opportunity, and that's not to take anything from Burnley because I think they played well and saw the game out pretty effectively once they'd taken the lead," Pearson told the team's official website. "But we'd spurned opportunities, and in the first half we made too many unforced errors and that caused us too many problems.

"Even though we had some promising moments in the first half, we allowed ourselves to be bullied at times."

Though Watford can lay claim to being the only team to defeat champions Liverpool thus far, Vicarage Road has not proven a consistent happy hunting ground. Including that 3-0 shock scoreline, Pearson's side have just four victories at home.

If there is a silver lining, all four wins have come in the last seven matches there (4-2-1) after a disastrous start in which they claimed four points from their first eight such contests. Pearson likely will continue squad rotations, which could point to Abdoulaye Doucoure and Roberto Pereyra being restored to the first XI after coming off the bench versus the Clarets.

"After a difficult result for us, we want to bounce back pretty quickly," Pearson said. "The nature of being in relegation battles is one in which we need to stay very much focused on the job in hand and we've got to take care of our own performances."

Southampton are looking to complete their first top-flight double of Watford and first at any level since 2011-12. They recorded a 2-1 victory in the reverse fixture at St Mary's as goals by Danny Ings and James Ward-Prowse five minutes apart in the final quarter-hour canceled out a first-half marker by Ismalia Sarr.

The Saints are 1-3-0 in their last four Premier League visits to Vicarage Road since a 3-2 reverse in 1999.

Updated June 27, 2020

Sports Data API Powered by STATS © 2020 by STATS PERFORM.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS PERFROM is strictly prohibited.