Southampton V Aston Villa at St. Mary's Stadium : Match Preview
Puncheon refuses to dwell on past
Jason Puncheon is surprised some have written off Southampton's survival chances already but thinks it could play into the south coast side's hands. Saints have lost their first four matches back in the top flight, leading some to suggest that manager Nigel Adkins' position is in jeopardy and relegation back to the Championship beckons. Puncheon could not help but smile when told of such gloomy predictions and, rather than focus on the start to the season, was keen to focus on the positives heading into the clash with Aston Villa.
"[Being written off] is always a good thing you know because we can use that," the 26-year-old said. "We're always going to be the underdogs as people would say. "If you're totally honest, if you look at the Man United and Man City games we didn't let them get in their stride. "We held our own and the good thing is we can only better. We have got no points on the board, being 'rubbish' if everyone wants to say that. "In football, there is always thin margins. People always say 'they could have done this', 'they could have done that' but now we have got to put things into action ourselves. "We have a big game on Saturday and three points are needed. "The season starts now so you take the positives from those games we've played into the game on Saturday."
New boys Gaston Ramirez and Maya Yoshida are pushing for full debuts. The pair came off the bench in last weekend's 6-1 thrashing by Arsenal with the latter replacing Jos Hooiveld, who is optimistic of returning from the calf injury which forced him off. Guly do Prado could return after being left out of the squad at the Emirates Stadium, while Jack Cork has overcome an ankle problem picked up in pre-season.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has branded speculation over the future of counterpart Adkins "ridiculous" as they prepare to do battle. Villa boss Lambert, whose own side endured a tricky opening few weeks before registering their first win against Swansea a week ago, is sympathetic towards his rival. "It's getting a bit silly now," he said. "With what he's done for them, and when it's only four games into the season, I think it's a bit ridiculous. But football is like that - you just never know what's around the corner. "It's getting harder and harder every year but I think that's really unfair. "Nigel's done a great job at Southampton. "In the last few years they have done fantastically well getting promoted twice. "The Premier League is an unforgiving division. Every game is hard, whoever you are playing. It doesn't matter if it's a side in the top six or bottom six. It's a hard, hard league."
Villa fans are eager to see more of recent signing Christian Benteke after the striker's goalscoring cameo against Swansea. The Belgium international is pushing for a place alongside Darren Bent on the south coast and Lambert reckons the young forward is an exciting proposition. "Benteke is only 21, that's what you have to remember," the Scot said. "He's only a kid and he's just starting his career. But his role in the last 15 minutes or so against Swansea was excellent. "He came over after playing a hard game for his national team in the week, coming back and playing for us, doing what he did, was excellent. "He's only 21 and he'll make mistakes like everybody else but I thought he was excellent. "He'll certainly give us a hand. There's no two ways about it - he's a big presence up there and his presence alone will un-nerve a few people. I was delighted with his contribution against Swansea, as I was with everybody's. "The whole team was excellent."
Lambert has no new injury concerns but faces a decision over whether to throw Benteke in or keep Andreas Weimann up front. Lambert has Chris Herd and Fabian Delph available after injuries but Marc Albrighton (foot) is not quite ready and Richard Dunne (groin) and Gary Gardner (ligaments) are long-term absentees.
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