Spending their second consecutive season near the bottom of the Premier League table, Southampton once again find themselves involved in a truly competitive relegation scrap. While the likes of Fulham and Huddersfield Town both appear doomed to take the drop, one relegation place still remains up for grabs.
Currently sitting two points clear of 18th placed Cardiff City, Southampton do have the numbers game on their side. Both sides have nine matches remaining and of the two sets, Southampton have a significantly easier schedule. Facing four of the top six over their final nine matches, Cardiff City must also head to Old Trafford on the final day of the season.
The Saints on the other hand, only have two matches against clubs inside the top six. Also playing into Southampton’s advantage is that both of those matches will take place at St. Mary’s Stadium.
Comparing both Southampton and Cardiff directly to each other over the next two months, which club should come out on top in this relegation scrap?
Southampton Set to Face Another Daunting Relegation Battle
Adding into this scenario both clubs have to play rescheduled matches, Southampton and Cardiff City have three matches remaining this month. With the international break also thrown into the mix, March promises to be an important month for both sides. Taking a look at the month’s proposed schedule, both outfits appear to have equally strengthened competition.
Starting with Southampton, the Saints open this scenario with Saturday’s home match against Spurs. With Tottenham struggling as of late, Southampton have a real opportunity here to try and earn at least a point in this match. Moving onto the rescheduled fixture next, Saints would travel to Vicarage Road to take on Watford.
Struggling against the mid-table this season, Southampton are likely to take the loss here before concluding the month at Brighton. A point is definitely possible here considering Saints early season success against the Seagulls.
Cardiff City should also manage to earn a couple of points during the remaining part of March. Traveling to London to this Saturday, Cardiff are likely to struggle against an in-form West Ham side. Following this match though, the Blue Birds will conclude the month with two home matches against Brighton and Chelsea. With the home crowd on their side, Cardiff could easily take three points against Brighton. A point against Chelsea is also plausible considering the London clubs recent struggles.
End of March prediction: Southampton and Cardiff tied on 29 points. Saints hold lead on goal difference.
With both clubs having four matches on the docket in April, things appear to be equal on the surface. However, unlike the month of March where the strength of schedule appeared to be equal, this month will provide Southampton with their best chance to truly break away from Cardiff.
Opening the month with a home match against Liverpool, Southampton’s remaining April schedule includes two more home contests against Wolves and Bournemouth. In fact, Southampton’s only match away from St. Mary’s this month will be a trip north to fellow relegation-threatened Newcastle.
Cardiff on the other hand, face a much tougher schedule. Opening the month with a trip to league leaders Manchester City, the Blue Birds also face tough road matches against Burnley and Fulham. On the home front, things won’t be much easier as Cardiff’s penultimate home match of the campaign will be against Liverpool.
End of April prediction: Southampton will conclude this month with 33 points following a draw against Newcastle and victory over Bournemouth. Cardiff City will earn a point each against Fulham and Burnley to reach 31 points.
Entering the final month of the campaign, Southampton should find themselves sitting pretty at this stage. Growing their lead from the end of March, the Saints will also once again benefit from an easier schedule in May. Of course, this fact is punctuated by the final match of the season for both Southampton and Cardiff. While the Saints will be playing host to last place Huddersfield Town, Cardiff face the daunting task of playing Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Before that though, Southampton and Cardiff both have tricky encounters for their penultimate matches. While Saints will travel to London for a match against West Ham, Cardiff will play host to Crystal Palace. Here, we find two extremely tough to predict matches. Proceeding on the conservative side, Cardiff should find a way to earn a point here while Saints suffer a tough defeat against West Ham.
Now tied on points entering the final matchday, Southampton will appear to have safety locked up due to their goal difference. However, that shouldn’t stop Southampton from earning a final day victory at home against Huddersfield to secure their survival.
May: Southampton to finish May on 36 points and secure survival. Cardiff make it close by getting to 33 points but leave it too late. A loss at United condemns the club to relegation.
At the end of the day, this final will once again be much too close for Saints supporters. However, much like last season, Southampton will breath a sigh of relief as a late campaign surge secures the club another year in the Premier League. Of course, with Ralph Hasenhuttl as the helm, things look a lot brighter than they did this time a year ago.
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