Hull Daily Mail journalist Philip Buckingham gives is the lowdown on Southampton's next opponents ahead of Saturday's game, at St Mary's.
What’s the mood and form like right now?
The mood is excellent, but the form is mixed. Any side fighting relegation would be thrilled with four wins in seven games, but a failure to pick up points away from the KCOM Stadium continues to hurt the survival chances.
Just one of the 20 points collected since Marco Silva arrived have come on the road, which is a record they’ll be desperate to alter at St Mary’s. That’s not to say they’ll travel without confidence. To beat Watford 2-0 with only ten men for over an hour was a huge result last weekend. Not only did it keep City out of the bottom three for another week, it demonstrated plenty of character. Belief was everywhere you looked at the full-time whistle.
Just how important is this game for Hull?
With four games to play and just a two-point cushion keeping City out of the relegation zone, it’s safe to say it’s very significant. Perhaps not as big as next weekend’s home game with Sunderland, which is a far more likely source of three points, but there’s an invitation on Saturday to really turn the screw on Swansea City. They don’t play until Sunday lunchtime when they're away to Manchester United, so getting a point or three at Southampton would see the Tigers send out a strong message.
What sort of an approach would you expect from them?
Much the same as the one we saw in the last away game at Stoke. That game ended in a 3-1 defeat, but there were signs of encouragement in a performance that placed an emphasis on counter-attacking football. If City had been more ruthless at the Bet365 Stadium, they could have left with at least a point. Marco Silva admitted he expects to see Southampton enjoying plenty of possession, so he’ll know his team has to be disciplined with their shape.
How’s the squad looking for the game?
Omar Elabdellaoui is still missing with a back injury, joining long-term absentees David Meyler, Will Keane, Moses Odubajo and Ryan Mason. Other than that, it should be a relatively strong squad Silva has at his disposal. The big bonus this week was having Oumar Niasse’s red card overturned. The striker, who is on loan from Everton, was sent off last week, but an appeal to the FA means he’ll be available this weekend.
Who would you say will be the key players for Hull?
Harry Maguire has been the outstanding player since the turn of the year, emerging from the shadows to become an influential figure in defence alongside Andrea Ranocchia. The most important players, though, could be Kamil Grosicki and Lazar Markovic. If the two wingers play well, so do City. Grosicki and Markovic can stretch opponents with their pace and direct running. The only downside in the two January arrivals has been their inconsistency.