Southampton vs West Ham preview: Marko Arnautovic could return for visitors

Marko Arnautovic is in the running to return to action for West Ham’s trip to Southampton on Thursday, live on Sky Sports.

The Austria international has missed the last three matches after sustaining the injury in the first half of the Hammers’ 3-1 victory against Cardiff on December 4, but is almost ready to step up his comeback.

So’ton vs West Ham

December 27, 2018, 7:30pm

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He will be needed for West Ham, who slipped to a surprise defeat at home to Watford on Saturday, having picked up four successive wins previously.

“In this moment, we have eight players injured,” Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini said. “We know that December and January are key months for results at the end of the season.

“I hope we can recover some players, especially Marko Arnautovic. Maybe he’ll be ready next week, but one of the merits of this team is to win games with a lot of players out of the squad.”

Southampton will be looking for a third win in a row, after picked up back-to-back wins with a 3-1 success at Huddersfield on Saturday, this first time they have won twice in succession since April.

Team news

Jack Stephens (knee) and Michale Obafemi (hamstring) both came off the bench and proved their fitness in Southampton’s win at Huddersfield, with Obafemi netting his first goal for the club.

Cedric Soares remains a slight doubt with a calf strain, while Ryan Bertrand is unlikely to return following a back injury.

Fabian Balbuena and Javier Hernandez have joined West Ham’s injury list ahead of the trip to face Saints.

Defender Balbuena suffered a knee injury against Watford on Saturday and striker Hernandez came off with back and hamstring problems.

As well as Arnautovic’s fitness, Lucas Perez (foot) will be assessed after he picked up a foot inury that has kept him out since the win over Cardiff.

Jack Wilshere, Ryan Fredericks (both ankle), Andriy Yarmolenko (Achilles), Carlos Sanchez (knee), Winston Reid (knee) and Manuel Lanzini (ACL) remain long-term absentees.

Opta stats

  • Southampton have only lost one of their previous nine home league games against West Ham (W4 D4), with that lone defeat coming in February 2017 (1-3).
  • West Ham are looking to win back-to-back games against Southampton in the Premier League for the first time since October 2001 (a run of four wins).
  • After winning their first ever away game at Southampton in the Premier League (2-0 in November 1993), West Ham have won just two of 15 such games since (D6 L7).
  • This match between Southampton and West Ham United will be the ninth Premier League match played on a Thursday since the start of 2016/17 – none of the previous eight have been won by the side playing at home (W0 D4 L4).
  • Charlie Austin has never scored a Premier League goal on a Thursday (two games) but has scored on every other day of the week during his Premier League career. Should he score in his match, he’d be the 26th different player to score on every day of the week in the Premier League.

Merson’s prediction

This should be a good game. West Ham were flying along before losing to Watford, while Southampton are showing you when you run around and work hard, like Man Utd did, they all have the talent and it is amazing what happens.

They now have a bit of confidence and are all working hard but, despite losing on Saturday, West Ham are also a decent team, so I am going to go for 2-2 here.

PAUL PREDICTS: 2-2 (12/1 with Sky Bet)

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