Super Spoilers: How Southampton Can Affect the Race for the Top 4
With 11 games left in the season for most of the Premier League, the race for the title and European places is starting to take shape, with each game becoming more critical for the teams at the top.
While Southampton won't be finishing in the top four or even battling for a Europa League berth, the Saints will have something to say in the title race. Mauricio Pochettino's side have given many of the top seven teams problems over the past two seasons, making it potential spoilers for the European hopes of many.
Here is a look at the remaining fixtures Southampton has against the top teams and how good the chances are the Saints may steal some points away from the contenders.
Arsenal and Chelsea
Chelsea did the better of the two, taking all six points against the Saints this season. Jose Mourinho's men took the first game at Stamford Bridge on December 1 3-1, before convincingly winning the return match at St. Mary's on New Year's Day 3-0.
Arsenal didn't fare as well against Southampton, but they still took four of the available six points. The Gunners won the first match at the Emirates 2-0 on November 23 before settling for a 2-2 draw on January 28 at St. Mary's.
Liverpool: At St. Mary's, March 1
Playing in the prime-time fixture on Saturday, Liverpool will be the first of the contenders to face Southampton during the stretch run.
Since the Saints returned to the Premier League last season, Southampton has held the edge in the series, winning two of the three matches so far.
Southampton have already beaten Liverpool once this season, a 1-0 win at Anfield courtesy of Dejan Lovren's goal on September 21. Although Liverpool may be in the better form, it seems unlikely that Brendan Rodgers' squad will capture all three points.
Predicted Result: Southampton Win
Tottenham Hotspur: At White Hart Lane, March 23
While both clubs have changed managers in the past year-and-a-half, one thing has been consistent—Tottenham Hotspur have had the Saints' number.
Spurs have won all three meetings since Southampton returned to the Premier League. But each of the three games has been a close affair.
The 2012-13 season saw Tottenham win at St. Mary's by a 2-1 scoreline in October of 2012. The return leg at White Hart Lane looked to be heading for a scoreless draw before a wonder strike from former Saint Gareth Bale gave Spurs a 1-0 victory.
This season, in manager Tim Sherwood's first Premier League game, Tottenham earned a 3-2 win at St. Mary's just before Christmas.
With all of the success Spurs have had against the Saints, it's hard to see a different result when the teams face off in March.
Predicted Result: Tottenham Win
Manchester City: At Etihad Stadium, April 5
Back in December, the Saints held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw. Southampton fans could argue that they deserved all three points, holding a 55 to 45 percent possession edge and out-shooting the Citizens 15-13, according to WhoScored.
While Manuel Pellegrini's squad has only lost one of 13 games at the Etihad, it doesn't seem impossible for the Saints to grab a point when they journey North in April.
Predicted Result: Draw
Everton: At St. Mary's, April 26
Roberto Martinez has fared well against the Saints, both at Everton and previously at Wigan Athletic. The Toffees won the previous meeting this season 2-1 at Goodison Park, a match better remembered for the Mark Clattenburg row that followed it.
Martinez captured four of six available points against Southampton last season with Wigan, a 2-0 victory at St. Mary's and a 2-2 draw at the DW Stadium. Everton also took four of six points against the Saints last season, a 3-1 victory at Goodison Park and a 0-0 draw at St. Mary's in Mauricio Pochettino's first game in charge at Southampton.
While a draw or even a victory wouldn't be out of the question for Southampton, it seems like Everton just have the edge in this matchup.
Predicted Result: Everton Win
Manchester United: At St. Mary's, May 11
For those who still believe that Manchester United are in the race for the top four, the fact that David Moyes' squad will finish their season at Southampton isn't welcome news.
While the Red Devils have had the advantage over the past three meetings, it hasn't been easy for Manchester United. Southampton lost a pair of one-goal games last season, including a 3-2 loss at St. Mary's, which saw Robin van Persie score twice in the last five minutes.
The match at Old Trafford was a 2-1 victory for Manchester United, but the Saints controlled possession and out-shot the hosts.
In the previous meeting this season at Old Trafford back in October, Adam Lallana scored a late equalizer to give Southampton a 1-1 draw.
While Southampton can certainly pick up a share of the points in this fixture, the last game of the season often goes to the team that needs the result more. Manchester United may not have much to play for by then, but Moyes' squad will certainly have more on the line than the Saints.
Predicted Result: Manchester United Win