STOKE CITY will look to end their fifth successive Premier League campaign on a high note when they meet Southampton at the St. Mary’s Stadium on Sunday.
Tony Pulis’ men are currently 11th in the top-flight table but could secure a top-half finish if they claim maximum points from their trip to the south coast and West Ham slip up against Reading.
They were beaten 2-1 by Tottenham in their final home game of the season last Sunday as the Club celebrated its 150th anniversary.
The sending-off of Charlie Adam put the skids under Stoke’s hopes of claiming any reward from that game but manager Pulis was highly encouraged by aspects of his side’s display and will look for more of the same on Sunday.
Southampton have consolidated their place in the Premier League after being promoted last season as runners-up to Reading in the Championship title race.
They are currently 14th, a point behind Stoke, but their preparations for Sunday’s game haven’t exactly run smoothly with manager Mauricio Pochettino threatening to leave the club if Chairman Nicola Cortese quits.
Cortese has admitted he is considering his position at St. Mary’s over differences with the trust that owns the club.
Full name: Southampton
Stadium: St. Mary’s Stadium
Executive Chairman: Nicola Cortese
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
2011/12: Championship (2nd), FA Cup (Fourth Round), League Cup (Fourth Round).
Record transfer fee paid: £12million for Gaston Ramirez to Bologna, August 2012.
Record transfer fee received: £15million for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal, August 2011.
Mauricio Pochettino may not have been a household name when he was appointed manager of Southampton in January but he’s a familiar figure to one Stoke City player.
He’s the man who conceded a penalty by bringing down Michael Owen when Argentina met England in the group stages of the 2002 World Cup.
David Beckham converted the spot-kick and England went on to record a 1-0 victory, while Argentina, who were favourites to win the tournament, failed to make it into the knock-out phase of the competition.
Pochettino - who won 20 caps, the last of which came in ’02 – spent much of his playing career plying his trade in France and Spain as he turned out for Paris Saint-Germain, Bordeaux and Espanyol, the first European team he joined from Newell's Old Boys in 1994.
He was handed the managerial reins at Espanyol in 2009 but after nearly four years of sustaining the club's Primera Liga status he was sacked in November last year after a home defeat to Getafe.
Tony Pulis will be forced to make a change to his starting line-up with Charlie Adam ruled out through suspension following his sending-off against Spurs.
And he also has doubts surrounding another of his midfielders with Glenn Whelan still being troubled by the groin problem that has forced him to sit out the last two games.
Pulis has also revealed that Brek Shea, who he hopes to involve in the game at Southampton, has a calf problem but could still make the trip to the south coast.
Southampton could be without leading 14-goal scorer Rickie Lambert, who is struggling with a back injury, and teenage left back Luke Shaw, who has been laid low by a virus.
Steve de Ridder and Vegard Forren also regarded as doubts, while Gaston Ramirez and Danny Fox are definitely ruled out through suspension.
Steven N’Zonzi: “It’s good that we are safe now, but we want to get into the top ten for the first time. It is the last game of the season and we want to go out in style. You always want to finish the season well, because it gives you a happy feeling when you go away for the summer break.
“It has been a long hard season, and we are ready for the break, but before that we want to go to Southampton, perform well and get the result that gives us a chance of finishing in the top ten, and earning the financial rewards that are on offer for the Club.”
Morgan Schneiderlin: “It’s going to be a good game. Both teams will have no fear as they’ve secured their life in the Premier League, but it will be a good game as we want to finish the season on a high, and thank the fans with a good league position as we could still finish tenth if results go our way, which is very important for us as a club.”
THIS WEEKEND’S FIXTURES:
(All kick-offs 16:00)
Chelsea v Everton
Liverpool v QPR
Manchester City v Norwich
Newcastle v Arsenal
Swansea v Fulham
Tottenham v Sunderland
West Brom v Manchester United
West Ham v Reading
Wigan v Aston Villa
League: 24 Stoke City wins; 27 Southampton wins; 10 draws
FA Cup: 1 Stoke City win; 0 Southampton wins; 0 draws
Total: 25 Stoke City wins; 27 Southampton wins; 10 draws
LAST FIVE MEETINGS:
Stoke 3-3 Southampton (Premier League) – 29/12/12
Stoke 3-2 Southampton (Championship) – 12/02/08
Southampton 3-2 Stoke (Championship) – 25/08/07
Stoke 2-1 Southampton (Championship) – 10/03/07
Southampton 1-0 Stoke (Championship) – 21/09/06
FANCY A FLUTTER:
Stoke City win: 4/1
Southampton win: 4/5
The odds are correct at the time of writing, and are from bet365.com. These may differ depending upon the latest betting trends.
THE MAN IN CHARGE:
Wiltshire-based Lee Probert is the referee for the Potters’ final game of the season.
The 40 year old has only taken charge of Stoke once before this term; in the 1-0 televised defeat at Fulham in February.
In 33 games this season he has issued six reds – to Fulham duo Brede Hangeland and Steven Sidwell, Newcastle’s Shola Ameobi, Steven Pienaar of Everton, Sunderland’s Stephane Sessegnon and Newcastle’s Rob Elliott – and shown 103 yellow cards.