Southampton host Tottenham in the early kick off on Saturday with the race for Europa League football reaching the business end of the season. Both teams have seen their form tail off in recent weeks with their record over the past 5 games matching. 7 points from a possible 15 has seen the opportunity to battle for Champions League football with the Manchester clubs escape them and they now turn their attention to qualification for Thursday night football.
After Aston Villa confirmed their part in the Europa League next season by reaching the FA Cup Final on Sunday only 5th and 6th place in the Premiership will qualify for next season’s competition which means that one of Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton will miss out.
The question mark over the Europa League and the effect that it has on the teams that are in it is one that has been discussed at length this season. The Premier League had a disaster with its teams participation in European competitions this season, firstly in the Champions League they were outplayed and out thought and in the Europa League the teams were guilty of giving precedence to the importance of the Premier League and potential Champions League qualification.
So the question remains, do Liverpool and Tottenham want to compete in the Europa League or would they rather do as Manchester United did this season and concentrate on a potential Premier League challenge and getting back in to the Champions League next season.
Southampton on the other hand have outperformed all expectations this season and competing in the Europa League next season could be seen as their just reward, especially for their fans. Koeman will have a battle on his hands next year to see his Southampton team replicate what they achieved this season and will need to invest heavily in his squad which has operated with a skeleton staff on the best part this season. Their participation in the Europa League could enable him Southampton to push on to the next level and also to gain further monetary backing from his board.
Koeman will first of all have to concentrate on keeping the wealth of talent at his disposal at the club next season as Rodriguez, Schneiderlain, Clyne and Wanyama have all been linked with summer transfers away from St Marys. He needs to avoid a similar exodus to what occurred last summer and has come out this week to refocus his squad on the task in hand of qualifying for European football next season with Arsenal sniffing around Wanyama.
Southamptons recent home form has picked up with 3 wins on the bounce. This has been built on strong defence as they have kept a clean sheet in all of these games. Kelvin Davis has managed to pick up were Fraser Forster left off before his serious injury against Burnley in goal but have a more absentees than Spurs do for Saturday’s clash. Other absentees are Vinctor Wanyama through suspension and Fillip Duricic and Jay Rodriguez will miss out through injury.
Spurs welcomed back Jan Vertonghan from injury last week and are set to have Hugo Lloris fit again after his recent troubles. This leaves Kyle Walker as Spurs sole absentee for selection on Saturday. Spurs got back to winning ways last week away against Newcastle and will be keen to press on whilst on their travels.
With 3 vital points up for grabs in what could be a tense game on the South Coast one thing is for sure is that it wont decide the race for the Europa League places but it will certainly give us an indication of who will be there come the end of the season with only 5 games to go.
PROBABLE SPURS XI: Lloris, Dier, Fazio, Vertonghan, Rose, Paulinho, Bentaleb, Lamela, Eriksen, Chadli, Kane