Southampton versus Crystal Palace preview

Saints manager Ronald Koeman has a selection headache upfront, with striker Graziano Pellè in lean goal-scoring form, having not scored in the Premier League since their game against Everton in December.

Pellè again failed to impress in the 1-0 defeat against West Brom, missing two glorious chances to score, so Koeman may decide to bench the struggling Italian and start Shane Long, with the Irishman returning to action on the weekend.

However, Pellè did score against Palace in Saints’ 3-2 FA Cup defeat to tonight’s opponents so may be given another chance to break his 2015 duck.

His team needs him to get back amongst the goals too; having scored just once in February and having slipped to 6th with the defeat on the weekend, Southampton desperately need to stop the slide if they are to host European football at St Mary’s next season.

The Saints are set to be boosted by the return of Belgian international Toby Alderweireld from his hamstring injury picked up in their 1-0 win at Manchester United in January, and is set to be in the squad tonight.

Despite their 3-1 win over West Ham on Saturday, Crystal Palace’s manager Alan Pardew, who had a season long spell at Southampton in 2009, has a selection headache of his own.

Striker Glenn Murray, who scored two of Palace’s goals on the weekend, is out after being sent off against the Hammers and will miss the clash at St Mary’s tonight.

Indeed, Palace have a real problem upfront, with Murray adding to an absentee list including Yaya Sanogo, Marouane Chamakh and Fraizer Campbell, so Dwight Gayle is expected to lead the line tonight.

Eagles captain Mile Jedinak will also miss out, after being handed a four-match ban for his elbow on Diafra Sakho.

Pardew will also have to overcome the Eagles’ Southampton hoodoo; Palace have not won at St Mary’s in the Premier League era, with their last top flight win at Southampton in 1990.

The manager will also have to drastically improve his record at St Mary’s himself, with the 3-2 FA Cup win over Southampton the first time he has won at St Mary’s in the opposition dugout.

The man in the middle tonight is Martin Atkinson, with the referee returning after being demoted to fourth official after the red card controversy involving Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic and Burnley.

Atkinson has refereed six Southampton games since their return to the Premier League, overseeing just one defeat, whilst taking charge of Alan Pardew’s 2-0 defeat at St Mary’s in 12/13 when Pardew was in the Newcastle dugout.