West Bromwich Albion manager Alan Pardew has stressed the importance of Saturday’s meeting with Southampton, but has remained coy on whether new signing Daniel Sturridge could receive his first start for the club.
Former Saints boss Pardew will lead bottom-placed Albion into the clash with his old side, who begin the weekend three points and two places above them.
While Pardew is confident Southampton will ultimately escape trouble, he is aware of the emphasis being placed by both teams on the match.
“I’m an ex-Southampton manager, so I certainly don’t want to see them get relegated, and I don’t think they will be – I think they’re good enough to get out of it, so I’m not suggesting they’re direct rivals to us, but they’re probably thinking of us as the same,” he said.
“What we’ve done, even though we’re bottom of the league, is drawn all of the middle table into us. The bottom teams have picked up points, Swansea more so than us, but we’ve gained on those teams in the middle areas and we’ve made everybody nervous, which is important – we’ve got to keep doing that.
alan pardewi'm not sure. i haven't seen enough of him on the training ground. what i do know is i've seen little flashes that have lifted me.
on whether daniel sturridge could start
“So, rather than focus on how important it is for Southampton, what’s more important for us is to keep closing the gap to those teams who probably thought they were getting comfortable, and they’re certainly not comfortable now, so that’s what we’ve got to keep up – pressure from the bottom to the middle.
“It’s very, very tight. We’re four points away from 14th, so it just goes to show you how important this game is for the clubs down at the bottom. They’ll all be looking at our result, and hopefully we win.”
Pardew brought in Sturridge on loan from Liverpool this week, giving the striker a late run-out in Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat at Manchester City, but he was keeping his cards close to his chest when asked if the forward could make his full debut this weekend.
“I’m not sure, if I’m honest,” he said. “I haven’t seen enough of him on the training ground. He had 20 minutes on Wednesday and one training session on Thursday.
“I’m not really sure where he is. All I do know is I’ve seen little flashes that have not only lifted me, but lifted everyone at the training ground, because he can do things with the ball that are special.”