As the curtain is set to be brought down on the Premier League season, it’s a tale of two very different surprise packages when Southampton play host to Sheffield United on Sunday.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has overseen an impressive resurgence ever since his Saints suffered that record-breaking defeat against Leicester in October, with highlight wins over the likes of Manchester City, Spurs, and Chelsea.
With the help of their golden boot hopeful Danny Ings, who has notched an outstanding 21 goals this term and lies just two shy of Jamie Vardy in pole position, the south-coast club currently occupy 12th place.
Whilst Blades fans will be looking back on their return season in the English top-flight incredibly fondly, despite many predicting them to languish at the bottom of the league table before a ball was even kicked.
Impressive result after impressive result, Chris Wilder had put his side into consideration for European football next season before the sport was brought to a halt in March, but their return-to-action hasn’t reaped the same riches that put them in that position.
With only three wins in their 10 games post-lockdown, Sheffield United can now finish as high as 8th and have guaranteed a top-half finish to put the icing on what has been an incredible breakthrough season.
Southampton will be hoping to do the double over Sunday’s opponents, with the reverse fixture at Bramall Lane in September decided by the sending off of former-Saint Billy Sharp and a spectacular solo goal from Moussa Djenepo, who, along with Moroccan forward Sofiane Boufal, will be unavailable this weekend due to injury.
Jan Bednarek is set to return to the starting line-up, although, and will likely replace Jannik Vestegaard in the heart of the Saints defence.
Whilst luckily for the visitors, the only absentee that Chris Wilder has to worry about is Luke Freeman, who has been unavailable since his injury against Newcastle United a month ago.
The Blades have won 45% of their fixtures against Southampton historically, and the Saints will not be helped by the fact that they have one of the worst home records in the league this season, winning only 18 of their 49 points from St Mary’s.
Despite this, Southampton are currently on an unbeaten run of 6 games and have acquired their most points in a league season ever since the good old days of Ronald Koeman five years ago.
Both sides have built great foundations to build on for next season, but I expect the Saints to narrowly bypass their impressive opponents this weekend and make it the first time in their Premier League history to take maximum points against newly-promoted sides.
Match Preview written by Ethan Evans