Premier League Week 31 Fixtures: Breaking Down Sunday's Biggest Matchups

Dan BrettContributor IIIMarch 21, 2014

Tottenham's Sandro, foreground, from Brazil, reacts after Benfica's goalkeeper Jan Oblak, background on the pitch, from Slovenia, makes a save during the Europa League, round of 16, second leg soccer match between Benfica and Tottenham at Benfica's Luz stadium, in Lisbon, Thursday, March 20, 2014. Benfica won 5-3 on aggregate and advances to the next round. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Francisco Seco/Associated Press

Tottenham go into their match with Southampton looking to keep their foot on the European gas, vying to secure Europa League football next season.

However, the Saints know that they still hold a chance of qualification, sitting just six points behind sixth-placed Everton.

The Premier League's sixth spot means a play-off place for next season's Europa League, thanks to Manchester City's Capital One Cup win.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa host Stoke, with both sides looking to move one step closer to safety.

The pair sit 10th and 11th respectively in the league—tied on points—with the winner of the tie able to move 12 points clear of the drop zone.

 

Tottenham v Southampton

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Tim Sherwood will be hoping to use the side's Europa League momentum for the visit of Southampton.

Depsite Spurs' exit from Europe, a spirited second-half display saw the side work their way to within one goal of extra time.

It wasn't to be, but the effort showed a much-needed improvement from the side's 1-0 derby defeat against Arsenal.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - MARCH 20:  Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur directs questions towards the fifth official after he was brought down in the penalty area by Miralem Sulejmani of SL Benfica during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 2nd leg match between  SL
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Now, Sherwood's men will realistically target another Europa League campaign next season.

Sitting in the fifth-place driving seat with a two-point lead over Everton, who hold two games in hand, European football is Spurs' to lose.

Former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher wrote of his desire to see Sherwood keep his job, and backed the side to retain European football next term:

I would like to see Tim get the job for the foreseeable future because he has got some good results this year—the wins at Man United and Newcastle spring to mind—and it is always hard to judge a manager when he comes in midseason and doesn't have his squad.

Sherwood knows the fabric of Tottenham and could really build something at White Hart Lane if he is given time, though his job could be made tougher if, as looks likely, they end up playing Thursday-night football again next year.

However, Mauricio Pochettino's Saints come to White Hart Lane knowing that victory could enhance their chances of Europa League action.

The visitors sit fifth in the Premier League Form Table with three wins and two defeats in their last five matches.

Of those, Southampton have scored at least a goal a game and won the last two by a narrow 1-0 scoreline.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 15:  Luke Shaw of Southampton clears the ball away from Johan Elmander of Norwich during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Norwich City at St Mary's Stadium on March 15, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

The boss will not only be hoping that form continues in north London, but also that his England contingent keep performing.

Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana are topping the club's scoring charts this term.

With 12, nine and seven goals respectively, all three stand a good chance of making Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad.

Rodriguez and Lambert both scored in the 4-2 win over Norwich last time out, per WhoScored.com, and will be hoping for similar profits in London.

 

Aston Villa v Stoke

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 15:  Ron Vlaar of Aston Villa outjumps Ramires of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on March 15, 2014 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Back to the Form Guide, and Stoke couldn't be worse-placed for their trip to Villa Park.

The Potters haven't won away in their last five, with two draws gleaning some points on their travels.

Per WhoScored, the club haven't won away since their 1-0 win at West Ham back in August.

Mark Hughes' men do take some confidence into the game, though, after fighting back from a goal down to secure a 1-1 draw at Norwich.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 15:  Willian of Chelsea fouls Karim El Ahmadi of Aston Villa and is booked during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on March 15, 2014 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Rega
Michael Regan/Getty Images

However, Paul Lambert's outfit will be raring to go against Stoke, buoyed by two successive home wins.

Villa saw off Norwich with ease in their 4-1 victory, despite going a goal down after three minutes.

This, followed soon by a 1-0 win over Chelsea, signals home comfort for the Midlands club.

Fabian Delph scored the winner against Jose Mourinho's side, and he frustrated the league leaders enough for the visitors to see two red cards.

Clarets captain Ron Vlaar is hoping to make it three in a row for his side, as tweeted by Birmingham Mail's Mat Kendrick:

With both clubs sitting mid-table, neither is mathematically safe from the drop.

Certainly Lambert's men will be the more confident going into the match.

But with Stephen Ireland and Peter Crouch returning to their old stomping ground, you can't write off a momentous away win for Stoke.