1 min: Southampton kick off and work the ball back to Hoedt, who slips over as he attempts to pass. Nerves? More dastardly tricks by someone at Swansea?
The teams enter the arena. No sign of acrimony as the players do the pre-match handshakes and claps. The home team are all in white; Southampton are wearing their black and cyan stripes.
“It’s only 120 miles between Southampton and Swansea, I don’t understand why the Saints needed a hotel,” quibbles Mike Lewis. “It probably takes longer to drive from Crystal Palace to Watford than the Saints trip for this game. Does Roy book a hotel for that fixture?” Keep up with the times, Mike: Premier League players are no longer expected to commute and work on the same day.
Carvalhal and Hughes speak
“It is amazing,” says Carvalhal. “I will tell you why.” He goes on to explain that Swansea have been in Europa League form since he arrived in late December. That’s a cunning way of glossing over the duller performances over the last seven matches. “I am very proud of my players,” he continues. “And am really happy to discuss this game today because it is something fantastic, isn’t it?”
Hughes reckons Swansea should be scared. “All the fear should be coming from Swansea,” he says. “They’ll see this as a massive opportunity to get the points they need … they know we have the attacking quality to apply pressure on them.”
Sky have just interviewed Mark Hughes and will broadcast the chat in a few minutes. but their man has tweeted a preview. Seems Hughes’ attack juices are flowing. |All this augurs well for a match in which both managers said they’d be asking their players to keep cool ….
News from the Liberty Stadium is that Southampton have run into some more bother: after yesterday’s hotel imbroglio (when they were turned away from the hotel that they had booked into, apparently on the grounds that there had been a sudden outbreak of a virus), Southampton travelled from their second-choice hotel – much farther away than their first-choice – but were held up by traffic because the police escort they thought they were going to get was cancelled. Mark Hughes and his squad were reportedly told that they’d have to sit on the idle bus for 25 minutes before being able to park close to the stadium. Hughes said they’d all get out and walk instead. So they’ve got a bonus warm-up there, and a proper funk on. Word is the visitors are minded to make Swansea pay for all these complications.
Swansea: Fabianski; Roberts, Naughton, Mawson, Fernandez, Olsson; Clucas, Ki, King; J Ayew, A Ayew
Subs: Nordfeldt, Van der Hoorn, Carroll, Sanchez, Dyer, Narsingh, Abraham
Southampton: McCarthy; Hoedt, Bednarek, Stephens; Soares, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Bertrand; Tadic, Austin, Redmond
Subs: Forster, McQueen, Ward-Prowse, Sims, Gabbiadini, Long, Carrillo
Referee: M Oliver
Hello. Welcome to a match that is sure to be tense and will likely produce heroes and/or villains. The ramifications of a negative result for Swansea or Southampton are grave, even if the only team that could be definitively relegated after this match are West Brom, who will be doomed unless it ends in a draw. Southampton are probably in the most pressing need of a win even though they go into the game a place above Swansea thanks to their superior goal difference: because if Mark Hughes side fail to win here, then they will probably have to do so on the final day of the season – against Manchester City, no less. Swansea, meanwhile, may be satisfied with a draw here on the grounds that they can be confident of winning their last match of the campaign, which is against Hughes’ old boys, the already relegated Stoke. Then again, can Swansea take victory for granted against anyone? No, they cannot, because Carlos Carvalhal’s healing powers seem to be dwindling and Swansea have won none of their last seven matches, scoring just two goals in the process.
As for Huddersfield, the other team still at risk of relegation, what outcome here do you think best suits them? David Wagner’s side are three points clear of both Swansea and Southampton but with an inferior goal difference to both so could be overtaken if they fail to garner a point from their last two games, which are against Chelsea and Arsenal.
Poor old Hughes has been the subject of much mocking because of the prospect of Southampton following Stoke out of the Premier League, which would mean Hughes will have managed two relegated clubs in the same season. Still, Hughes would not be the first to suffer such an indignity. There was an amusing three-in-a-row in the 1980s, for instance. Ron Saunders secured his status as an Aston Villa legend by managing both West Brom and Birmingham City towards relegation in 1986; then, in 1987, Billy McNeill led Villa down along with Manchester City, whom McNeill had managed earlier in the campaign. The following year Dave Bassett rounded off the hat-trick by leaving Watford when they were about to drop out of the top-flight, then taking over Sheffield United, whom he took down to the third tier. So if worse goes to worst, Sparky, history is your friend, at least.