Southampton travel to Nottingham Forest, with both sides desperate for three points to try and escape the bottom-three. With the end of the season approaching, it’s now or never for both sides to maintain their Premier League status.
Nottingham Forest were agonisingly close to a second away win of the season last weekend, holding the lead against Brentford with just eight minutes to play. As Forest have learned the hard way, mistakes get punished in the top-flight – with two defensive errors seeing the Reds leave London without a point to their name.
With the nature of the situation they find themselves in, there can be no room to dwell on dropped points – Steve Cooper’s side have to pick themselves up against Southampton, as nothing but three points will do with just four games remaining.
It feels like this season has been coming for Southampton, having flirted with relegation over the past couple of years; however it looks like a number of managerial changes will be the defining factor in the Saints’ departure from the Premier League, should they fail to escape the bottom three. Ralph Hassenhuttl, Nathan Jones and Reuben Selles have all sat in the St Marys’ dugout this season, but only the former has possessed the pedigree to keep the south coast side in the Premier League for a 12th consecutive season.
As the curtain slowly closes on Southampton’s time in the top flight, do the Saints have one last trick up their sleeve to get points on the board? If so, now’s the time to use it.
WHEN & WHERE?
Where: City Ground, Nottingham.
When: Monday 8th May 2023.
Time: 20:00 GMT
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistants: Stuart Burt, Lee Betts.
Fourth official: Thomas Bramall.
VAR: Paul Tierney.
Assistant VAR: Neil Davies.
Regardless of what division Forest will be in next season, this campaign will always be looked back on with a big ‘what if?’. Cooper’s squad has been broken by the number of injuries they’ve had; hardly being able to feature a full-strength starting 11. Danilo, who has recently found form in the Garibaldi is the latest victim of Forest’s injury plague – with the Brazilian now a day for Monday’s crunch match.
Southampton will be ending the season with a number of defensive injuries causing a selection headache for Selles. With Perraud now out for the season, the Spaniard has been forced to move around his full-backs, shifting Walker-peters to left-back with Lyanco and Maitland-Niles both coming in on the right flank in recent weeks.
Two of the league’s lowest goal scorers are going head-to-head on Monday night, but that isn’t to suggest neither side will be looking to play on the front foot. Neither of these two sides have easy fixt3ures remaining, and both will be viewing this as a last chance to keep their survival hopes alive – however slim they may be.
Forest look to finally have figured out their own style of play, and a starting to look like a side who can compete in the Premier League; even if it is too little too late. The Reds will sit deep, willingly conceding possession to their south coast opponents, whilst looking for openings to counter. A tactic likely to work against a rather goal shy Southampton.
It would be naïve to say Forest are still poor in front of goal, especially when considering recent form. Having only failed to score in two of their last ten games, which both came against European chasing opponents. Unfortunately for the Reds, it’s the other end which is causing the most concern – a well-experienced backline which cannot stop conceding. The likes of Navas, Felipe and Aurier have failed to register a cleansheet since the start of February – they will be eager to end against Southampton.
The hosts are likely to get on the scoresheet, so Southampton are going to have to do what they can to break through the Forest backline; with all eyes likely to be on James Ward-Prowse to do so. Ward-Prowse looks destined to leave the south coast this season, and can bow-out in style if he keeps his side in the top flight. Arguably the best set-piece taker in the World, the midfielder is going up against a side who capitulate when balls are flying into their box. Corners and free kicks always seemingly find their way into the back of the net and Ward-Prowse will be a dangerous threat from all of them – giving any away could easily punish Nottingham Forest.
Nottingham Forest: Morgan Gibbs-White
It was a toss-up between Gibbs-White and Johnson this week, and I’ve decided to go for the former. Gibbs-White has a menace in his last City Ground fixture, picking up a goal and an assist as the Reds blew away the Seagulls under the floodlights. With the pressure mounting, Nottingham Forest need everyone to set up and Gibbs-White always seems to when the pressures on. Expect him to put on his performance of the season as he pulls apart of fragile Southampton defence.
Southampton: James Ward-Prowse
Ward-Prowse is the leader in this Southampton side, and it’s easy to see why. He’s been a key figure for the Saints over the past decade and is comfortably head-and-shoulders above his teammates. If anyone can drag them out of a dire situation, he can. I’ve already spoken about his threat from set-pieces, but he’s so much more than that. He’s the beating heart of this Southampton side and if Forest doesn’t shut him down they might struggle – regardless of where their opponents are in the league.
Nottingham Forest predicted lineup vs Southampton – Navas, Lodi, Niakhate, Felipe, Worrall, Aurier, Mangala, Danilo, Gibbs-White, Johnson, Awoniyi.
Southampton predicted lineup vs Nottingham Forest: Bazunu, Walker-Peters, Bella-Kotchap, Caleta-Car, Maitland-Niles, Armstrong, Lavia, Ward-Prowse, Djenepo, Alcarez, Sulemana.