Two improving teams clash at St. Mary’s this weekend, with both sides fancying their chances of being in the Europa League mix-up as the season goes on.
Southampton are unbeaten in six matches and sit in seventh place, with Ronald Koeman’s men showing that last season was no fluke; their presence in the top-half of the Premier League looks set to be a consistent one.
No team has scored more headers in the top flight than the Saints this season, with Graziano Pelle looking to add to his six league goals so far.
Stoke head south aiming for their first ever win at St. Mary’s – their last win at Southampton came at the Dell way back in 1980.
The Potters are getting better every week and have won four of their last six matches, with the influence of Bojan crucial since the Spaniard’s return from injury.
With the ex-Barcelona frontman alongside Marko Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Jon Walters – full of confidence after his two goals for Ireland secured their Euro 2016 qualification – Stoke will always provide a threat going forward.
Shane Long could return from injury for Southampton after coming through Ireland’s play-off without concern, but Jay Rodriguez’s injury woes continue; his foot injury may need surgery.
Virgil van Dijk should take his place in the back-four despite picking up a problem on international duty.
Stoke’s only key injury problem concerns Marc Muniesa, who will miss the match on the south coast with a knee complaint.
Shay Given is also out, but goalkeeping has not been a problem for Stoke so far thanks to Jack Butland’s superb form which earned him a run-out for England in midweek.
League Position: Southampton – 7th (20 pts); Stoke – 12th (16 pts)
Last Meeting: Stoke 2-1 Southampton – April 18th, 2015
Key Players: Southampton – Graziano Pelle; Stoke – Marko Arnautovic
Form: Southampton – WWDDWW; Stoke – WWWLDW
Shoot Says: Southampton 2-1 Stoke