West Bromwich Albion vs Southampton Preview: Two top-half sides battle to be best of the rest

Southampton play their third game in a week this Saturday when they meet West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns hoping to further close the gap between the two teams.

The Saints and the Baggies are right next to each other in the league table, meaning that a win for either would go a long way to securing their status as the best Premier League outfit outside of the traditionally big clubs further ahead of them.

Season defining?

On the surface, this encounter seems more like a candidate for being last on Match of the Day than a crucial moment in determining how each side looks back on this campaign.

Admittedly, the contest is not very intriguing for the neutral; West Brom and Southampton sit eighth and ninth in the Premier League respectively, and neither are likely to make the European places or be fighting for relegation come the end of the season. 

The Baggies and the Saints are battling it out for what would be a successful eighth place. Photo: Getty.
The Baggies and the Saints are battling it out for what would be a successful eighth place. Photo: Getty.

Nevertheless, the match carries the utmost importance for both clubs. With the big boys in Manchester, Liverpool, north London and Chelsea regaining control of the league after last year's bizarre campaign eighth is as high as the Saints or the Baggies can realistically hope to climb. 

While not monumental, a top-eight finish would be more than satisfactory for either side, essentially giving them the title of, outside the usual suspects, the best of the rest in England.

The situation

With just a handful of games left, the battle for eighth place is set to go down to the wire. West Brom currently hold a seven-point lead on the Saints in ninth, but Claude Puel's men have two games in hand on tomorrow's opponent, meaning victory tomorrow would put them in pole position.

Southampton's inability to finish their chances has been the story of their season, leading to a lack of consistency. However, they will go into the game with momentum, following a morale-boosting 3-1 defeat of Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Southampton returned to winning ways on Wednesday against Crystal Palace. Photo: Getty.
Southampton returned to winning ways on Wednesday against Crystal Palace. Photo: Getty.

In contrast, Tony Pulis' side have gone at a steady, solid place throughout, but a loss at Watford on Tuesday has put their position in the table in jeopardy. 

While there are a few teams just below the Saints surely believing that they could still climb up the table, Saturday's visitors' games in hand and their hosts' solid point cushion mean it would be a major surprise if someone else managed to snatch that eighth spot.

Team news

Winger Matt Phillips could start for Pulis' West Brom after returning to first-team football from a hamstring injury as a substitute against Watford. 

Southampton will be without midfield heartbeat Oriol Romeu as he begins a two-match suspension.

The likes of Steven DavisSofiane BoufalRyan Bertrand and goal-scoring sensation Manolo Gabbiadini will undergo fitness tests to determine whether they are ready to play after knocks.

Match Facts

West Brom haven't lost in the Premier League since August when they have scored first.

Southampton's shot conversion percentage is 11.1%, the worst in the league.

Only league leaders Chelsea have used less players than West Brom this season.

There's history between them

This fixture ended goalless last season, although Southampton eased to a 3-0 victory at St Mary's.

This time around, West Brom came from behind to win 2-1 on the south coast.

West Brom won 2-1 when the sides met at St Mary's this season. Photo: Getty.
West Brom won 2-1 when the sides met at St Mary's this season. Photo: Getty.

Only Saints striker Shane Long has played for both clubs.

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