In the 32nd round of matches of the 2017/2018 Premier League season, David Moyes’ West Ham United play host to Mark Hughes’ Southampton in their first home game since crowd protests and pitch invasions marred the defeat by Burnley at the beginning of March.
Both teams go into the relegation six-pointer off the back of three weeks breaks from Premier League action, before that, the Hammers were bettered at home by the Clarets in the aforementioned clash, while the Saints most recently defeated Wigan Athletic to reach the Emirates FA Cup semi-finals, the home side are the slight favourites for this one.
The pivotal clash is scheduled to take place tomorrow afternoon (Saturday 31 March 2018), with a kick-off time of 3 PM GMT and as is customary with starts of that time, no live television coverage available in the United Kingdom.
However, you can catch live radio commentary on both BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio London Sport, but never fear, if you don’t have access to a radio tomorrow, stay with us right here for a Live Blog of the encounter, featuring live and exclusive build-up, text commentary and reaction, live from the London Stadium Press Box and starting at 1 PM.
The visit of Hughes’ Saints will take place at the club’s London Stadium, with a capacity of 57,000 and the option to go high into the 70,000s it is one of the most spectacular and newest arenas in English Football.
Originally opening in 2012 for the London Olympics, the ground has now been a Premier League stadium for nearly two years, and as well as football hosted rugby, athletics and concerts among other events, but hasn’t always been popular with supporters who were reluctant to leave the Irons’ former home of the Boleyn Ground.
Their discontent was catalysed early in this season when the first-team stars, then under Slaven Bilic, were forced to play the first four games of the season away from home due to Stratford hosting the World Athletics Championships, including this match, which had to be swapped from home to away in August.
But, the Stadium is slowly starting to feel more like home for the Claret & Blue Army, and today will be only the second time that the team from Hampshire have visited Stratford, triumphing 0-3 thanks to goals from Charlie Austin, Dusan Tadic and James Ward-Prowse on their only previous outing there in September 2016.
Hammers boss Moyes has been given two major injury and suspension boosts ahead of the fixture with wing-back Arthur Masuaku set to appear competitively for the first time since January when he was given a six-game ban for spitting at Wigan’s Nick Powell.
Edimilson Fernandes, whose bone loosening of the ankle has kept him out since November, had also been passed fit to play but we will know more after Moyes’ Pre-Southampton Press Conference this afternoon, Marko Arnautovic scored three goals over the International break and will be keen to punish his former Stoke City manager.
Whereas, new Saints manager Hughes does not have as many long-term injury concerns as his counterpart and could even welcome back striker Austin mere months after he tore his hamstring in December 2017.
His fitness will be touch and go as will that of captain Steven Davis, who is also nursing a hamstring injury and Ryan Bertrand who is struggling with a back problem, the Welshman will be keen to get the trio back for the detrimental trip to East London.
The first-teams of West Ham United and Southampton have met a staggering 170 times competitively in a fixture that was first played all the way back in the year of 1899, with the Saints edging the first meeting 3-1 in December of that year.
Since then, the Hammers have enjoyed the better of the overall record over the years, winning 74 to tomorrow’s visitors’ 50 and sharing the points and the spoils on 46 separate occasions.
More recently, however, this encounter has been a little harder predict with a mixed bag of results as seen in the last ten clashes between these two sides where the South Coast outfit have triumphed four times to the East London team’s three and there have also been three draws.
The last time that they faced off with each other, in August 2017, they produced a thriller at the St Mary’s Stadium in which Manolo Gabbiadini and Tadic, from the penalty spot, put the hosts ahead amid Arnautovic’s red card, only for a Javier Hernandez double to level things up and Austin break the hearts of the Claret & Blue Army by scoring an added-time spot-kick to make it 3-2.
Southampton Football Club was formed in 1885 as St Mary’s YMA and has endured a rocky existence ever since, yoyoing through the divisions at various times throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.
The highlight of the club’s 132 years so far surely came in 1976 when they shocked Manchester United in the final of the FA Cup to lift their only FA Cup to this date, finishing runner-up on three occasions and twice in the League Cup, lifting the 2010 Football League Trophy with the help of West Ham’s Michail Antonio.
Despite being one of the founding Premier League teams, the Saints fell as low as League One during the noughties, battling their way back up to the Top-Flight via automatic promotion in the 2011/2012 season, famous Academy products include the likes of Matt Le Tissier, Alan Shearer and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale.
Nowadays, under experienced boss Hughes following the sacking of Mauricio Pellegrino at the beginning of the month, Southampton are fighting for their PL lives for the first time since re-joining the league down in 18th position, they are currently a mere place and just two points below their Saturday opponents in the table.
Who Is Officiating?
Experiences Select Group referee Jon Moss will be the man in the middle in Stratford tomorrow afternoon with the duo of Simon Bennett and Andy Halliday assisting him and fellow Premier League referee Graham Scott acting as Fourth Official.
So, now that the London Stadium scene has been well and truly set for an exciting afternoon of bottom-half football, can the Irons move away from the bottom-three with three points of the highest-importance?
Or, will Hughes’ Saints act as the pantomime villains to boost their faint hopes of beating the drop to the Sky Bet Championship on a huge day in East London? Think you know? Be sure to find us on Twitter @MooreThanAClub to cast your early score predictions and join the pre-match discussion.