Hull Daily Mail reporter Phil Buckingham gives us the lowdown on Hull City ahead of Southampton's visit to KCOM Stadium this Sunday.
How has Hull’s season been so far?
It started with an unexpected bang, beating Leicester and Swansea, but ever since that uplifting first week it’s been the struggle that most supporters were braced for. The 1-1 draw with Burnley on 10th September remains the last point collected, and six consecutive Premier League defeats have dragged City into the bottom three. A run to the EFL Cup quarter-finals has brought some respite, but these are difficult days for Mike Phelan.
How important is this game for the team?
Just one point has come from the last 24 available, so it’s imperative that City get to the international break with something to cling to. The longer this losing run extends, the more confidence is damaged. Supporters also need to see a performance on home soil again. A 2-0 defeat at home to Stoke two weeks ago was dispiriting in the extreme. A win would be huge in the circumstances, but you suspect most would accept a point just to halt the slide.
What sort of a system and style of play do Hull employ?
Mike Phelan was faithful to a 4-3-3 formation until last weekend’s trip to Watford, where his hand was largely forced into a 3-5-2 shape. The return of captain Michael Dawson means the team’s strength is with its central defenders, and an additional man at the back certainly helped plug a few gaps. Only a Dawson own-goal denied them a first clean sheet since August, at Vicarage Road, and you would expect Phelan to place the emphasis on being hard to beat again. For all the club’s troubles at the moment, Phelan still encourages his team to get the ball down and play.
Who would you say will be Hull’s key players for this game?
I’ll go with two players, one from either end of the pitch. Michael Dawson missed the opening 12 weeks of the season with knee ligament damage, but has come back into the side to shore up a defence that leaked five at Liverpool and six at Bournemouth. His leadership skills and experience are invaluable. In attack, City need to get a tune from Abel Hernandez if they are to stand any chance of survival. The striker scored 23 goals last season to inspire promotion, but he has so far scored just one this term. If Hernandez gets back among the goals, City will stand a far better chance of turning around their ailing form.
What sort of a match are you expecting to see?
The need to take something from the game would point towards it being a tight, cautious fixture. City tried to be open against Bournemouth recently and paid a heavy price. Staying compact will give the Tigers the best chance and I’ll optimistically go with a 1-1 draw.