Southampton have won two, drawn five and lost three of their 10 Premier League matches this season to collect 11 points, which has left them in 14th position in the table ahead of Friday’s clash at St Mary’s.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side had to wait until the middle of October to record their first league victory of the season, overcoming Leeds United by a single goal, but the win appears to have acted as a springboard, with four more points following in their last two fixtures against Burnley and Watford.
Last weekend, a first-half effort from Che Adams was the difference against the Hornets, and the Saints will now view their next two against Villa and Norwich City as winnable fixtures ahead of a difficult trip to Anfield to face Liverpool at the end of the month.
Only Crystal Palace (six) have drawn more Premier League matches than Southampton (five) this term, but the fact that they have lost just three times – the same number as Manchester United – means that it has been a relatively successful start to the campaign despite some early-season problems.
The Saints have lost just one of their last nine Premier League games against Villa, meanwhile, recording five victories in the process, but the visitors ran out 1-0 winners at St Mary’s last term.
Villa, meanwhile, suffered their fourth straight Premier League defeat last Sunday, going down 4-1 at home to West Ham United; Ollie Watkins levelled the scores at 1-1 in the 34th minute, but the Hammers then scored three times without reply to overcome their 10-man hosts.
Smith’s side have now dropped down into 15th position in the table, collecting just 10 points from their opening 10 matches, while only Norwich (eight) have lost more league games this term.
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Villa sold their inspirational captain Jack Grealish over the summer, but an exciting transfer window for the club saw them bring in the likes of Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings. As a result, it would be a huge surprise to see them in any relegation trouble this term, but the recent run of results is a cause for concern.
Worryingly, the visitors have a very tough December on paper, taking on Manchester City, Leicester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, which is an indication of the importance of their next three games against Southampton, Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace.
Villa, as mentioned, have a surprisingly poor recent record against Southampton, but they did run out 1-0 winners in the corresponding match in January courtesy of a first-half effort from Ross Barkley.