Southampton vs Crystal Palace – Preview
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has ordered his players to ignore the possibility of facing an under-strength Crystal Palace side on Sunday and focus solely on trying to secure qualification to the UEFA Europa League.
Palace are expected to rest several first-team players at St Mary’s on the final day of the Barclays Premier League season, with an eye on the FA Cup final against Manchester United next weekend.
There is no reason for Koeman to do likewise, with the Dutchman’s men sitting seventh in the table and in with a chance of pipping West Ham United to a top-six finish.
On the prospect of playing in Europe next term, the Koeman said: “That would be fantastic. That would be a big achievement after a very good season.
“It’s not to be happy now. It’s do your job on Sunday and we know it’s a difficult game. Maybe they will make some changes in the team because they play the FA Cup final in one week, but we expect a strong team.
“[We need to focus on ourselves] and finish the season like we have in the last few months and then it’s really time to enjoy, but not before Sunday afternoon.”
Southampton have been on an impressive run of form in the league, unbeaten in five matches and with wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City to show for their efforts.
The Saints received further boosts on Friday, with goalkeeper Fraser Forster and midfielder James Ward-Prowse committing their long-term futures to the club. Koeman has also reiterated his commitment to Southampton, dismissing links with the vacant Everton job.
Southampton, whose only absentee is midfielder Jordy Clasie (groin), also boast an excellent Barclays Premier League record against Crystal Palace, having lost only one of the previous 13 meetings between the clubs. That defeat came in December when Yohan Cabaye scored the only goal at Selhurst Park.
It is set to be a much-changed line-up for Palace , who are 14th in the table having secured their top-flight status and turned their attentions firmly to the FA Cup.
Alan Pardew has confirmed that Julian Speroni will start and equal John Jackson’s club record for a goalkeeper of 388 appearances.
“On this occasion sentimentality has won,” he said. “He deserves it. He has been a fantastic back-up to the other goalies.”
Pardew, who ruled Joe Ledley (fibula) and Wilfried Zaha (muscular injury) out of the encounter, was also full of praise for his former club Southampton ahead of Sunday’s match.
“Southampton are a superb club with supporters that trust the team and manager,” he added. “They’re the form team in the Premier League at the moment.”
Southampton (from): K Davis, Forster, Gazzaniga, Stekelenburg, Bertrand, Cedric, Fonte, Gardos, Martina, McCarthy, Targett, Van Dijk, Yoshida, S Davis, Mane, Reed, Romeu, Tadic, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse, Austin, Juanmi, Long, Pelle, Rodriguez.
Crystal Palace (from): Hennessey, McCarthy, Speroni, Dann, Delaney, Hangeland, Kelly, Mariappa, Souare, Ward, Bolasie, Cabaye, Guedioura, Jedinak, Lee, McArthur, Mutch, Puncheon, Sako, Adebayor, Campbell, Chamakh, Gayle, Wickham.
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Referee: Michael Oliver Assistants: G Beswick, L Betts Fourth Official: K Stroud
– Crystal Palace’s 1-0 win earlier this season was their first in the Barclays Premier League against Southampton, having lost eight and drawn four of the previous 12 meetings.
– Palace have won none of their last 10 BPL matches on the road (D5 L5).
– Southampton have won seven and lost one of their last nine top-flight matches at St Mary’s Stadium.
– Yohan Cabaye has scored in both of his league appearances against Southampton.