Southampton can overcome a “psychological barrier” by beating Aston Villa and climbing out of the Premier League relegation zone, says Nathan Jones.
Saints host Villa on Saturday, at the same time as the other teams in the bottom three – West Ham and Everton – meet at London Stadium.
Southampton came from behind to beat Everton 2-1 at Goodison Park last week, building on cup wins over Crystal Palace and Manchester City. They remain bottom of the table on goal difference but a win over Villa could see them rise as high as 14th.
“That is the first psychological barrier really, just to get above the line, and that is what we want to do,” Jones said. “We would have liked to have done it by now, but it gives us an opportunity this weekend against a very, very tough side, and that is probably our motivation now.
“We all know that, it is the first psychological barrier and then you can start to build. At the minute we are playing catch up, but we want to get past that and get our head above water. But we don’t get too low when we lose or too high when we win, we have to keep an equilibrium and that is what we have kept. It is a big couple of weeks coming up in terms of three competitions, but we are excited by that. It is a challenge we want to have.
“Yes, the last three results have helped to galvanise everyone, helped to give everyone a little bit of a boost and for everyone to really believe in the work that we are doing inside and out. But we haven’t rested on our laurels this week, we have had a real hard week.”
Villa will head to St Mary’s Stadium without Southampton old boy Danny Ings, who joined West Ham on Friday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Southampton – James Ward-Prowse
Ward-Prowse has scored four goals in his last four Premier League games, including both strikes in Saints’ win at Everton. He’s been involved in five Premier League goals against Villa (two goals, three assists), only having a hand in more against Tottenham (eight) and Palace (six).
Aston Villa – Emiliano Buendia
Buendia has scored two goals in his last three Premier League games, as many as he had in his previous 20. Five of his seven league goals for Villa have ended up being the winning goal of the game, with the other two being equalisers in 1-1 draws.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Southampton have lost their last two Premier League matches against Villa, last losing three in a row between April 1998 and April 1999.
– Villa have won just one of their last five away league games against Southampton (D1 L3), a 1-0 win in January 2021 with a goal from Ross Barkley.
– This is Villa’s third Premier League game against a side starting the day bottom of the table this season, with the Villans so far winless in their previous two (0-1 vs West Ham, 1-1 vs Nottingham Forest).
– Southampton have had just 69 shots on target in 19 Premier League games this season, with their average of 3.6 per game their lowest on record in a single campaign in the competition (since 1997-98).
– Villa are looking to win three consecutive Premier League away games for the first time since November 2020, while Unai Emery could become the first manager to win his first three on the road in charge of the Villans since John Gregory in 1998.