Two teams focusing on next season collide at St Mary's, as Southampton take on Fulham
Recently safe Southampton take on recently relegated Fulham at St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon, with both sides attentions turning to next season.
Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side had suffered an alarming drop down the Premier League table since briefly topping it in November, but their top flight status was confirmed when Fulham lost 2-0 to Burnley earlier in the week, sealing the Cottagers’ instant return to the Championship.
Meanwhile, it’s been a long old slog for Scott Parker’s team, who must now prepare for another season in the second tier, having done similar to what they did when they came up in 2018-19, only to go back down after spending heavily in the transfer window.
Many of Fulham’s first team are on loan, so whether they’ll be involved for the remaining three games or not remains to be seen, with the likes of Joachim Andersen, Alphonse Areola, Ademola Lookman and Ruben Loftus-Cheek unlikely to be part of the club next season.
Southampton could also face a summer of upheaval, with club captain Ryan Bertrand confirming this week that he’s leaving the club at the end of the season. He’s been linked with moves to Manchester City, Arsenal and Monaco recently. A move to the south of France doesn’t sound too bad at the age of 31.
Danny Ings’ future is also the centre of speculation, with the striker reportedly keen to try his hand at a club competing in Europe. If he shows the type of form that saw him bag two goals against Crystal Palace earlier in the week, a bid may arrive sooner rather than later.
Going into the game, Hassenhuttl is without Will Smallbone and the aforementioned Bertrand, who are both injured. Oriol Romeu is closing in on a return but only has an outside chance of being involved, while Jan Bednarek is 50/50 with an ankle problem.
As for Fulham, Parker will be missing Terence Kongolo once again. The former Huddersfield Town defender has only played 90 minutes all season, and is set to miss the rest of the campaign with a knee injury that has sidelined him practically ever since he arrived from West Yorkshire.
Harrison Reed is back in contention for the trip to his former club, where he spent seven years before a successful loan spell at Craven Cottage led to a permanent move. Captain Tom Cairney is also close to a return, and could be involved for the first time since just before Christmas.
A win for Southampton will move them above Crystal Palace for almost 24 hours at least, while a win for Fulham would see them reach 30 points, which is one point short of the lowest number of points to guarantee survival in Premier League history.
Southampton take on Fulham at St Mary’s on Saturday, May 15th. Kick-off is at 3pm.