Just under two weeks ago, these same two sides met at The Hawthornes in a relegation six pointer, which arguably served up one of the games of 2018 so far. Southampton came out on top in a 3-2 win over WBA, and in doing so, clawed back some pride and managed to put themselves in a much better position in the fight for survival.
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So let’s fast forward two weeks; Southampton are back in the relegation zone after a dire display against Liverpool, and West Brom have all but given up in their fight for survival, should their fans on twitter be believed. So what’s in store for the FA Cup 5th round tie?
In an ideal world Southampton would play some young guns and those that have not featured as much, and in turn rest some of our more important players. However, that is unlikely to happen. Due to Pellegrino’s tactical incompetence, we’ve offered few curve balls via team selection and formation this season, meaning Southampton will most likely line-up in a deep 4-2-3-1 formation, looking to absorb pressure and win the game 1-0. Our next Premier League fixture takes place exactly a week on from this FA Cup clash, so I naturally expect few changes to be made against the Baggies.
Pellegrino’s team will most likely lineup as follows:
McCarthy, Cedric, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand, Romeu, Lemina, Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg, Tadic, Carrillo.
Pellegrino will most likely continue with the same back four that has leaked goals all season and in recent weeks has seemed fatigued, despite our crunch fixtures in the fight for premier league survival
Hojbjerg, for some reason unbeknownst to me will likely act as the furthest forward of the three central midfielders, as Pellegrino likes to play him as support behind Carrillo – again something that seems at best illogical.
Tadic and Ward-Prowse will look to provide the width, despite both players being more-suited to central roles, and look to cross the ball into our target man, Carrillo.
Boufal may well find his way into the starting XI, however, after being dropped against Liverpool last weekend. If I had my way though, he’d be saved for our trip to Turf Moor. Burnley are a team that have mastered the deep block and that’s something that Boufal specialises in breaking down.
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My starting XI would look something like this, in a Koeman-esque 4-3-3:
Forster, Pied, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Davis, Redmond, Sims, Gabbiadini.
In defence, I think Forster needs another run out, and the cup is the perfect opportunity, alongside Yoshida and Pied, who need to replace Cedric and Hoedt after the pair’s poor run of form, as both also seem to be fatigued.
In this formation we allow Romeu to sit and hold so he can regain his confidence after what’s quite frankly been a poor season by his standards. Davis and Hojbjerg will then act as two box-to-box midfielders, with one sitting deeper as one pushes forward (and vice-versa). Davis needs some game-time, and whilst Lemina has been in better form than most, he needs to be saved for our crunch Premier League fixtures, especially after our knock in confidence against Liverpool.
Finally, our frontline definitely needs a mixup, I think that Redmond, Sims and Gabbiadini would provide a breath of fresh air, in a dreary and lacklustre strike force. I would hope that we’d play some flowing football, start to hit low-crosses for Gabbiadini’s front-post runs, with Redmond and Sims swapping wings in order to confuse defenders.
In spite of the fact that West Brom are in troubles of their own, and that Saints beat them just two weeks ago, I fully expect a 1-1 draw and a replay. Neither team will want to be overzealous in their attempts to win the game, given their dire straits in the Premier League, so will likely rest players and look to keep it tight and win by a slim margin, but I can see both teams cancelling each other out. Predicted goal scorers: Jay Rodriguez (WBA) and Tadic (Saints).