Southampton can take another huge step towards escaping the brunt of the relegation scrap Saturday when they host Crystal Palace at St Mary's.
The Saints (6-3-10) are seeking their first three-match winning streak in league play since closing the 2015-16 term with four victories on the bounce. Southampton climbed out of the drop zone with an impressive 2-0 triumph at Chelsea on Boxing Day, getting goals by Obafemi Martins and Nathan Redmond on either side of halftime.
"Now my Christmas is fantastic," Saints boss Ralph Hasenhüttl told the club's official website. "We came here with a lot of confidence after the last game at Villa and we wanted to show ourselves how far we've come.
"We were very brave when we had the ball. That's important against such an opponent. I think the second goal was the best example of how we can play and what we want to do."
That made it four wins in six for Southampton, who have clearly found a groove after a wretched start in which Hasenhuttl was starting to feel the heat as his team languished in the bottom three. It was also the first clean sheet for the Saints since their 1-0 victory at Sheffield United on Sept. 14.
Danny Ings, who leads Southamton with 11 goals in league play and 13 overall, will try to avoid going back-to-back matches without a goal since failing to net versus Leicester City and Manchester City on Oct. 25 and Nov. 2. Ings has a pair of goals in six lifetime appearances versus Crystal Palace, including the match-winner in a 2-0 victory at Selhurst Park last term.
Hasenhuttl's side have just seven points from their nine matches at St Mary's, but their two wins have come among their last three there. Southampton have yet to record a clean sheet at home in league play, with nine of the 24 goals shipped coming in their shambolic, record-setting defeat to Leicester City on Oct. 25.
"It's two big results away from home and now we need to take that belief, confidence, drive and desire to go into these home games," Redmond added.
Crystal Palace (7-5-7) are looking to consolidate their hold on a top-half position after rallying past West Ham United 2-1 at home on Boxing Day. Jordan Ayew set up Cheikhou Kouyate's equaliser on 68 minutes before scoring at the death as the Eagles have taken 11 points from their last six matches after a stretch in which they claimed one from five.
"This football club has a lot of faith in me because with the season I had last season, people didn't think they would sign me," Ayew told Amazon post-match. "The manager especially told me he wanted to keep me for this season and I told him straight away, yes. I wanted to stay. Since I've been in England I've been moving around and now I have stability. My family is comfortable here in London and everything is perfect."
Ayew has found a knack for scoring timely goals, with three of his team-high five proving to be match-winners. Palace are still a goal-starved outfit with 17 through half the league's schedule - the fewest of any team in the top 10.
The quick turnaround may be too much for Patrick Van Aanholt to feature after he was forced off in the 65th minute through injury. The Palace left back missed a match earlier this month with a hip injury.
Unsurprisingly, Roy Hodgson's team have been feast or famine on the road. Their eight goals outside Selhurst Park have come in pairs in four matches while being blanked in the other five. Palace are 3-1-0 when they bulge the net on the road compared to 0-1-4 when failing to tally.
Southampton claimed four of the six points in last season's meetings, which included a 1-1 draw at St Mary's as James Ward-Prowse's goal in the 77th minute canceled out a first-half strike by Wilfried Zaha.
Palace also finished the match with 10 men after Zaha got a pair of yellow cards in rapid-fire succession in the 87th minute, with the second coming for sarcastically clapping at referee Andre Marriner following his booking for fouling Ward-Prowse.