Adam Leitch looks ahead to Southampton's first visit to Brentford Community Stadium, as the two sides go head to head in the Premier League. It's the latest edition of Tactical Watch, in association with Sportsbet.io.
Safety may well be assured for Saints and Brentford but there are serious reasons to suggest this game still matters for both clubs.
Brentford are somewhat on the crest of a wave. An impressive first season in the Premier League has seen them reach the 40-point mark and all but secure another year of top-flight football under Thomas Frank.
Saints are similarly secure, but the recent feeling has been more downbeat rather than something to celebrate, yet there is still the opportunity to finish on a high. How this one plays out could depend on both the physical and the mental matchups of the sides…
Saints are likely to use their high energy pressing game to attempt to counter Brentford’s methodical build-up.
Thomas Frank can set his team up in a 4-3-3 style formation or with three centre-halves, and they are always prepared to build from the back to try and work the ball out wide and use their talent on the flanks to cause danger. With Ivan Toney in the middle they always boast a goal threat.
Saints know how to counter this. At St Mary’s earlier this season it was Brentford who slightly edged possession and completed more passes – their short passing game often plays into these stats looking impressive – but it was Saints who were comprehensive 4-1 winners.
That Hasenhüttl’s team has the ability to get on the front foot could be key. If they can press and stop Brentford being able to build from the back, then they can also stop the supply out wide or short into feet between the lines.
The Bees do not favour trying to play in behind, so it is imperative that Saints grasp the nettle to do what they do best under Hasenhüttl.
It’s so close to the end of the season that it is inevitable there is already one eye on next season.
Brentford know they have another year in the Premier League to look forward to, but such is the joy of that they still seem to have been on a high when they have played of late. Whether that continues in the final days of the campaign remains to be seen.
Saints now need a very strong finish to secure the top-half finish which appeared to be beckoning not all that long ago. But with relegation no longer any more than a distant mathematical threat and new owners readying themselves for a first summer transfer window, attention is already on next season.
Whether Saints can kick-start themselves back into life for one last push – and let’s not forget some big bucks for the club to reinvest are at stake too – is the challenge for the squad.
Brentford’s feel-good factor has undoubtedly been boosted by the arrival of Christian Eriksen.
He has brought not only a rather exceptional amount of quality to the team but also a story that is captivating and uplifting.
The free role he has been given which allows him to drift in from a nominal position in an attacking role on the left gives Saints another problem to deal with. Eriksen’s ability to get in between the lines and unleash his undoubted quality will cause issues both across the back line and for Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse.