Following their terrific 4-0 thumping of Premier League title contenders Arsenal on Boxing Day, Southampton visit London hoping to deliver a second successive knockout performance when they face draw specialists West Ham United at Upton Park this evening.
The Saints, who moved to within two points of today’s rivals in 12th spot following Saturday’s triumph, will be looking to seal back-to-back league wins for the first time since early-November as Ronald Koeman’s side bid for momentum heading into the New Year.
Meanwhile the Hammers, who slipped to tenth place on Boxing Day following their fifth consecutive draw against Aston Villa (1-1), haven’t won since their impressive 2-1 victory over defending league champions Chelsea back on October 24.
With Slaven Bilic’s side desperate to transform their stalemates into three points; the last meeting between these two sides doesn’t provide much hope or muster much room for optimism as it was a goalless encounter at St Mary’s Stadium back in February.
However the previous three Premier League games between West Ham and Southampton at Upton Park has served up an entertaining tally of 13 goals, with none of their last 12 meetings at the Hammers’ ground ending in a draw, including nine wins for the hosts.
Although if you rewind back to last August; when the Saints visited Upton Park last, goals from Morgan Schneiderlin (2) and Graziano Pelle sealed a comfortable 3-1 victory for the south-coast outfit, meaning the Saints are today looking for back-to-back away wins at West Ham for the first time since April 1992.
But just a word of warning for Koeman’s visitors; the Hammers are unbeaten at home this season since losing their opening two league fixtures of the campaign to Leicester City and AFC Bournemouth and have conceded just two goals in their last five outings altogether.
Meanwhile the Saints; who have lost their last two matches on the road, have won just two of their last 15 Premier League away games (W2 D5 L8), scoring just 11 goals in the process.
Southampton’s record in the final fixture of the calendar year is hardly convincing either, with 2010’s 4-1 win over Huddersfield Town being their last victory to toast the New Year in previous attempts.
Saturday’s stalemate with Aston Villa added to West Ham’s injury problems as defenders Aaron Cresswell (hamstring) and James Tomkins (head) were both forced off at Villa Park.
However manager Slaven Bilic is hopeful left-back Cresswell and centre-half Tomkins will recover in time for the visit of Southampton.
Striker Andy Carroll may return after seemingly shaking off a thigh problem; although this evening’s game is very likely to come too soon for the likes of Dimitri Payet (Ankle) and Manuel Lanzini (thigh), although both midfielders should return to full fitness over the New Year period.
That leaves Winston Reid, Victor Moses (both hamstring) and Diafra Sakho (thigh) as West Ham’s only other absentees due to long-term injuries.
Southampton will be without top goalscorer Graziano Pelle for today’s trip to London due to a knee complaint, an injury which boss Ronald Koeman is concerned could keep the Italy international out for a few weeks.
Meanwhile, full-back Cedric Soares (groin) also misses out; meaning the Dutchman is likely to name the same starting eleven that defeated Arsenal two days ago, with Cuco Martina deputising at right-back once more.
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster, defender Florin Gardos (both knee) and striker Jay Rodriguez (ankle) are the only other senior players Koeman has to do without for the trip to Upton Park.
League Position: West Ham – 10th (26 pts); Southampton – 12th (24 pts)
Last Meeting: Southampton 0-0 West Ham – February 11, 2015
Key Players: West Ham – Aaron Cresswell; Southampton – Sadio Mane
League Form: West Ham – LDDDDD; Southampton – LLDLLW
Shoot Says: West Ham 1-1 Southampton