Date: 12th March 2016 at 8:23am
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Two mid-table sides with half an eye on Europe meet at the Britannia on Saturday, with both currently lacking the consistency to seriously challenge the top six.

The hosts enter the game in good form, with three wins and a draw from their last four fixtures; a run that has provided a much-needed lift after no goals and just one point in the previous four games.

A victory against the Saints will seal a third successive home win for the first time in two years, whilst it has been the same amount of time since they last went five games unbeaten in the Premier League.

The form of goalkeeper Jack Butland has been key to Stoke’s success this season; the England man has made 98 saves to date, more than any other top flight stopper, as he continues to put the pressure on Joe Hart ahead of the European Championships this summer.

Southampton have stalled after an impressive run, and needed a last-gasp equaliser from Virgil van Dijk to rescue a point at home to lowly Sunderland last weekend.

The draw did at least mean the Saints avoided a third consecutive defeat, but the winless run has seen them slip to ninth, a full eight points off the last European spot.

Goals have been hard to come by for Ronald Koeman’s side of late; they have scored just six times in their last 10 away matches, and are the league’s second-lowest scorers on the road in all. The lack of goals for Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle – goalless in 18 and 12 matches respectively – goes some way to explaining this lack of cutting edge in front of goal.

Team News:

Influential defender Ryan Shawcross could return for the hosts after taking part in training this week following a back injury, while Glenn Whelan is set to make his 300th appearance for the Potters.

Southampton are missing Jose Fonte and Victor Wanyama through suspension – the latter is completing the final game of a five-match ban after three red cards this season. Charlie Austin is out with a hamstring problem, but fellow frontman Shane Long is back.

League Position: Stoke – 8th (43 pts); Southampton – 9th (41 pts)
Previous Meeting:
Southampton 0-1 Stoke (November 21, 2015)
Form: Stoke – LLWWWD; Southampton – DWWLLD
Key Men: Stoke – Marko Arnautovic; Southampton – Shane Long
Shoot Says: Stoke 2-1 Southampton

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