Hull City-Southampton Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)
The Associated Press

The two surprise packages of the Premier League season meet at St Mary's on Saturday when Southampton host Hull City.

Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton (5-4-1) have lost just one of their opening 10 games, conceding a league-low four goals in the process. The Saints' terrific run of form has not gone unnoticed, with three players - Ricky Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana - all named in the latest England squad for friendly matches versus fellow World Cup participants Germany and Chile.

"Southampton at the moment are becoming a very good club as far as England are concerned in terms of providing players," said England manager, Roy Hodgson. "We like what we see there and this squad was a great opportunity.

"I didn't necessarily want to make too many changes before the important last four qualifiers. I had a squad of players who had been there and been with us all along. It would have been, I think, the wrong time to introduce them then. But it seems to me now is the right time to introduce them and I hope they will be happy to be selected. If they get a chance to show what they can do, I know they won't let their country down."

Newly-promoted Hull City (4-2-4) went into the season with manager Steve Bruce targeting 10 wins to be in the running for Premier League survival. Last weekend's 1-0 victory over Sunderland was Hull's fourth win, leaving them with a great chance of reaching that target over the final 28 matches. However, Hull's key creative player, Sone Aluko, is sidelined three months with a calf injury, leaving Bruce needing a rethink for his goal-shy side.

"Anybody who's watched Hull City over the last 18 months, especially the first six months Sone was here, will realise that I wasn't talking lightly when I said he was the best player in the Championship," said Bruce, whose team has netted only eight goals. "He will take some replacing, but we need to find a way. Whether that means changing the system or changing the personnel we need to enable the team to function as well as it would do with him.

"One thing you need at a club like ours, which has just come up, is your biggest and best players to be fit and firing. But that's football and we have to deal with it. Thankfully we've managed to cope with anything that's been thrown at us so far and hopefully that will be the case again."

Southampton have injury doubts over Guly do Prado (knee) and Pablo Osvaldo, while Hull are missing Alex Bruce (groin), Aluko (calf), Allan McGregor (hip) and James Chester (hamstring).

Pochettino's side are unbeaten in seven and have allowed just two goals in that run. One more game without defeat would mark Southampton's best unbeaten run in 11 years.

Only Tottenham Hotspur have kept more clean sheets than Southampton's six. After 10 games last season, the Saints had conceded 28 goals and not posted a single shutout. They need just one more shutout to match their tally from all of last season.

Hull have conceded just 10 goals this season, but nine have come away from KC Stadium. The Tigers have lost four of their five games on the road, and have failed to score in three of those.

The Saints did the double over Hull during their promotion season in 2011-12, but this will be the first top-flight meeting between the clubs.

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