Southampton head into the weekend as one of the Championship’s form sides with the aim of continuing their fine run in a bid to earn automatic promotion back to the Premier League in Russell Martin’s first season at the helm this term.
Indeed, the Saints currently occupy third spot in England’s second tier after 26 outings, having quickly cut the gap to second-placed Ipswich Town to just three points after enduring somewhat of an underwhelming start to the campaign.
Since suffering four straight league defeats in September, Martin’s team have embarked on an 18-game unbeaten streak, winning 12 of those, to put themselves in a strong position in the fight for promotion, and after back-to-back draws, their cause was helped by an eye-catching festive period as they picked up four straight wins from mid-December until the turn of the year.
After putting up 4-0 and 5-0 thrashings of Blackburn Rovers and Queens Park Rangers respectively, either side of a hard-fought 1-0 triumph away at Queens Park Rangers, the Saints capped off 2023 with a 2-1 victory over Plymouth Argyle at St Mary’s, before travelling to Norwich City on New Year’s Day and falling just short of making it five on the bounce as they were held to a 1-1 draw after going ahead through Adam Armstrong.
Now on the back of a 4-0 beating of Walsall in the FA Cup third round on Saturday, thanks to Ryan Fraser’s brace and goals from Sekou Mara and Che Adams, Southampton return to Championship action in a strong position, boasting the longest league unbeaten run in England’s top four tiers, and they will aim to keep building momentum and narrow the three-point gap to Ipswich with another triumph at the weekend
That will be no easy task, though, as Sheffield Wednesday arrive at St Mary’s with plenty of renewed confidence on their side thanks to an impressive run in recent months under the management of Danny Rohl.
Saturday’s visitors found themselves rooted to the foot of the Championship table for the majority of the first half of the campaign and sat on just six points from their first 17 outings, but they have since turned a corner in eye-catching fashion.
Since late November, the Owls have added 16 points to that tally in nine attempts courtesy of five victories and a draw alongside just three defeats, and they would quickly bounce back from a pair of defeats around Christmas with back-to-back triumphs, firstly returning to winning ways away at Preston North End as Marvin Johnson netted the only goal of the game.
Rohl’s men then hosted Hull City on New Year’s Day and further strengthened their survival bid with a 3-1 victory, thanks to goals from Johnson, Djeidi Gassama and Josh Windass, before most recently building further momentum with a 4-0 FA Cup thrashing of Cardiff City at the weekend with Windass again on the scoresheet alongside Liam Palmer and Mallik Wilks and a Romaine Sawyers own goal.
Having previously sat well adrift of safety early in the campaign, Sheffield Wednesday now sit 22nd thanks to their upturn in form with just a three-point gap to Huddersfield Town outside of the drop zone, and they will now set their sights on taking a major scalp at St Mary’s with the chance to reduce that gap further and avenge an opening-day 2-1 defeat to the Saints at Hillsborough.