Everton play their last game before Christmas on Saturday when they travel to take on Southampton
Southampton V Everton – Preview
By Eoin Leeson
We go into the game on the back of a morale boosting 3-1 win over QPR on Monday night. After Ross Barkley broke the deadlock with a wonderful strike, further goals were added when Kevin Mirallas struck home a deflected free kick and Nedam Onuoha put through his own net with Bobby Zamora scoring a consolation for the visitors.
It was a good performance and the result sent us back into the top half. This will hopefully get us back on track and allow us to build some momentum heading into the busy Christmas period.
Muhamed Besic, Barkley and Naismith all shone on Monday and it was remarkable to see how much we missed Naismith while he was injured. His constant grafting and goal contribution make him a key element of our team.
It was disappointing to concede against Rangers and losing Kevin Mirallas to injury again for another couple of weeks put a dampener on the collection of the three points.
Saturday’s game is a good chance to pick up more points with Southampton in a dire patch of form and with their squad stretched to the limit with injuries and suspensions. It would be nice to see John Stones get back on the pitch after his ankle injury too.
Before the season started, there was talk about Southampton getting relegated after they lost the majority of their best players and their manager to bigger clubs.
The reality couldn’t have been more different though with the Saints having been up in the top three of the league and competing for a European place. It’s been a stellar season so far with the club now lying in 5th place.
The wheels on the Southampton freight train have come off in the past few weeks with their last six games resulting in no wins and five defeats including losses to lowly Burnley and League 1 Sheffield United, a result that saw them exit the Capital One Cup.
The defeats have shown that talk of a European finish was quite premature and that even though they can do it against teams in the bottom half they struggle against the big boys.
That said, Southampton has already beaten Swansea and West Ham, two of the season’s other surprise packages, so we shouldn’t take anything for granted tomorrow. Their poor run shouldn’t fool us into thinking it will be an easy game.
Ronald Koeman and the majority of his new signings have settled in well at the South coast club while their academy’s conveyor belt continues to deliver talented youngsters.
The key players that we will have to watch on Saturday are the two full backs Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand, who get forward to great effect, and Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld who has impressed so far this season.
Bertrand may play in an advanced position on Saturday due to the absence of first choice wingers. Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic and Morgan Schneiderlin would also have been on this list if they weren’t injured and suspended.
Southampton will be hoping to break their losing run at 3:00pm on Saturday.
Last season saw Everton beat Southampton 2-1 at Goodison Park in December before we were beaten 2-0 at St. Mary’s in April.
Roberto Martinez is without Mirallas, Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman for the game at St. Mary’s although he will be able to call upon Gareth Barry after the midfielder served his suspension ban.
James McCarthy and Darron Gibson are 50/50 according to the boss.
Southampton is missing Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama and Florin Gardos due to suspension while Tadic and Jake Hesketh will miss out because of injury. Pelle and Steven Davis are doubtful.
SOUTHAMPTON LIKELY LINE UP: Forster, Clyne, Alderweireld, Fonte, Targett, Mané, Cork, Ward Prowse, Bertrand, Long, Mayuka. (4-4-2)
EVERTON LIKELY LINE UP: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Besic, Barry, Barkley, McGeady, Naismith, Lukaku. (4-3-3)
Southampton are without key men and are in bad form so tomorrow is a great chance for us to get a result against a top eight team. Can we do it? I think so.
PREDICTION: Southampton 0-1 Everton.