“The Hardest Thing At The Moment Is To Pick A Team” – Southampton Manager Previews Pivotal Fixture

In what will likely be a crucial match for both sides, Southampton host Liam Rosenior’s strengthening Hull City who look to utilise their excellent January recruitment to maintain a strong push for the play-offs. With two impressive teams going head-to-head at St. Mary’s, these three points could be pivotal for their respective league ambitions.

Russell Martin’s side bounced back from a rare, disappointing 3-1 loss to Bristol City last Tuesday by defeating West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at The Hawthorns on Friday evening. This proved to be a statement victory for the Saints as they climbed back up to second. Their opposition left it late on Saturday afternoon, as Hull City defender Jacob Greaves scored their opener as well as a dramatic stoppage time winner, in the sixth minute of added time, to beat Huddersfield Town 2-1 and claim three vital points.

A win here for Southampton would see them leapfrog Leeds United who now sit two points above them in second place, but have played one more game than the Saints. With Ipswich Town breathing down their neck, the home side simply cannot afford to let their momentum slip. With St. Mary’s proving to be a fortress as of late, Southampton remain unbeaten in their last 13 home games. However, the Tigers look to have finally adopted some consistency with four wins from their last five matches and now occupy eighth place, only one point behind West Brom in fifth.

In their previous meeting back in late October, Hull City were left heartbroken at home. An impact substitution from Russell Martin saw Ryan Fraser score a late winner to rescue all three points for the Saints in a tense and lively affair between the two sides. The game at the MKM Stadium saw seven yellow cards with both teams clearly desperate to get the job done.

With Hull boss Liam Rosenior still without Liverpool loanee Tyler Morton until mid March and Manchester City loanee Liam Delap until even later, Russell Martin was asked about the availability of key players Che Adams and Flynn Downes , in a club pre-match interview ahead of the game.

“Che is back tomorrow (Tuesday), Flynn could be back tomorrow – might mean Saturday becomes a bit more problematic. The squad is looking really strong and in a good place.”

“The hardest thing at the moment is to pick a team. They’ve all contributed so much; to leave players out then becomes so difficult.”

When asked about the Saints’ impressive win against West Brom on Friday evening, the Southampton boss expressed immense praise for his team:

“I enjoyed that performance so much. I enjoyed the result obviously; I enjoyed the feeling and the energy of the team.”

“It took incredible courage and intensity to perform against a team who have been so good at home.”

Looking ahead to the arrival of Hull City, in what is a relentless run of fixtures from now until the end of the season, Martin spoke about his side’s focus and intention:

“Tomorrow is a different test; so there will be some different things that we’ve looked at and worked on, so hopefully we can carry them out as well as we possibly can and as they did on Friday.”

“That’s the job. That’s the players’ job, they need to recover as well as possible, we need to maintain out energy to give them enough energy to make sure we nail the things we want to.”

Finally, the Southampton manager addressed Hull’s impressive transfer recruitment since their reverse fixture:

“I think they’ve recruited well, so they’re very much growing and trying to be the team they want to be.”

“The club [Hull] has put themselves in a really good footing in terms of where they’ve recruited.”

Writer’s view

Hull have had nothing short of a fantastic January transfer window and have added some real quality in the loan signings of Fabio Carvalho from Liverpool and Ryan Giles from Luton Town. If Liam Rosenior can continue to implement his tactical vision and gel these impressive individuals together, then a play-off place would look increasingly likely for the Tigers. If they get it right on the night, a result at St. Mary’s would certainly not come as a shock.

Russell Martin’s side have a delightful problem of having so much quality in rotation for the upcoming fixtures. With another win looking more likely for the Saints, it could prove to be another game decided by late drama or a moment of brilliance.

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