Relegation Candidates to the Top Half? Can Southampton Finish in the Top 10?

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Relegation Candidates to the Top Half? Can Southampton Finish in the Top 10?
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At the beginning of March, if someone suggested to you that Southampton would finish in the top half of the Premier League at the end of the season, you probably would have called the authorities to have that person committed for a psychiatric evaluation.

The Saints were 16th in the table after 28 matches with 27 points, only three points above 18th-place Aston Villa and the drop zone. A home loss to Queens Park Rangers didn't give much indication of anything except a struggle to the end of the season to avoid relegation.

Now, Southampton have taken 10 points out of a possible 12, including home wins against Liverpool and Chelsea. The Saints only sit two points behind 10th-place Fulham, and a top-half finish is now very possible.

Yes, Fulham does have a game in hand, but that match is against Chelsea, so getting any points out of that game is not a guarantee. Five of the remaining seven matches for the Cottagers are squads that are currently above them in the table: Chelsea (H), Arsenal (H), Everton (A), Liverpool (H) and Swansea (A).

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Southampton's match at Swansea will be key in the Saints' hopes of a top-half finish.

Fulham must also travel to Aston Villa, a squad in a decent run of form with three wins in their last six. Only a home match against Reading looks to be a sure three points for Martin Jol's squad.

Looking even further up the table, ninth-place Swansea are also in reach. Although the Saints are four points behind, the Swans are struggling, with only one win and one draw in their last six matches.

Southampton does have a head-to-head matchup with the Swans on April 20 in Wales. If the Saints win that match, a battle for ninth will truly be on. Swansea still have Chelsea (A), Manchester City (H) and Manchester United (A) on their fixture list, along with Fulham (H) and Wigan (A).

Meanwhile, the list of fixtures is rather kind for Southampton.

The Saints only face one member of the current top five, that being Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on May 4. Southampton have home dates against West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City, a slate that Mauricio Pochettino's men could easily sweep.

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Away from St. Mary's, Southampton have the aforementioned matches with Tottenham and Swansea, as well as a date at struggling Sunderland.

Nine points out of those six matches would probably be enough to pass Fulham in the table and move into the top half. A total of 13 points, along with a win at Swansea, is not completely out of the question and would be enough to vault the Saints to ninth. 

Eighth-place West Brom are probably just out of reach with 44 points compared to Southampton's 37.

For most of the season, most Southampton fans would have gladly accepted a 17th-place finish and would be glad to stay in the Premier League next season. Now, the top half of the table is within reach, which would be a heavenly finish for the Saints.

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