Southampton big price to press way into Premier League top ten
Seven clubs look as good as guaranteed to finish in the top half of the Premier League this season, while assuming Swansea do not suffer a drastic decline after the Capital One Cup final, it is hard to see them not ending up in the top ten.
Therefore, realistically, there are two top-ten places up for grabs and based on recent results, Southampton may be the team to make a late surge up the standings.
Their transition from seeming bankers for relegation into one of the toughest teams to beat in the Premier League has been one of the stories of the season, started by Nigel Adkins and continued by his replacement Manuel Pochettino.
Saints have only lost one of their last nine in the Premier League and this was an acceptable defeat at Manchester United, with Sir Alex Ferguson stating afterwards that their performance in the second half was the best by a visiting team at Old Trafford this season.
This improved form also takes in draws with Arsenal and at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, while their latest win saw them inflict the heaviest defeat on defending Premier League champions Manchester City this season.
The midfield partnership of Jack Cork and Morgan Schneiderlin has helped bring more protection to the back four and as a result Southampton are not conceding anywhere near as many goals as earlier in the campaign.
Meanwhile, Pochettino has brought a touch of Catalan to Hampshire, with his playing style built around high pressing that forces the opposition into mistakes in deeper areas.
Southampton are 6/1 to finish in the top half and although they are 15th in the Premier League table, only six points separates them from 10th-placed Stoke.
In eight of the last nine seasons, the team to finish 10th have accrued between 47 and 50 points, meaning Southampton need 20 points to reach the bottom end of this target.
They do have four more than winnable home games remaining as QPR, West Ham, Stoke and West Brom still have to visit St Mary’s, while Norwich, Sunderland and Reading all offer opportunities to take points on the road.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date