GUS POYET will welcome a free week before facing Southampton after a busy festive period where the games have been coming thick and fast.
With a heavy schedule, the coaches don’t have much time to work on the training pitch, as the team are either preparing for games or recovering from them.
At least this week, the team can fully focus on the weekend’s game.
Southampton will provide a big challenge. We beat them in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season, but that was largely their second XI. Their team this time around will be much stronger.
They are a team with a lot of young, talented players and they have occupied a top half position all season.
Mauricio Pochettino, judging by his interviews, doesn’t seem to have mastered the English language yet, but he has certainly got to grips with English football.
He has taken Southampton to another level since taking over from Nigel Adkins, who was controversially sacked.
But Pochettino was backed with big money in the summer and he spent it wisely on quality players – Victor Wanyama, Dani Osvaldo and Dejan Lovren.
Those three, added to the talented youngsters, have produced a team, who are difficult to beat and in 10 away games have only conceded 11 goals.
I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the battle between a rejuvenated Adam Johnson and Southampton’s highly-rated left-back Luke Shaw, which could have a massive influence on the outcome of the game.
After last week’s fantastic win at Fulham, there is new hope and confidence among both team and fans.
And while our position is still very precarious, the players will know a win on Saturday will give them a great chance of getting out of the drop zone.