Preview: Hull City vs. Southampton

Graziano Pelle of Southampton celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on September 13, 2014
© Getty Images
Sports Mole previews the Premier League clash between Hull and Southampton at the KC Stadium as the second-placed Saints go in search of a seventh win in eight.

Five years ago on Saturday, Southampton drew 2-2 away to Leyton Orient in League One. They travel to Hull City this weekend second in the Premier League table.

This staggering journey has had its ups and downs - three managerial departures, a change in ownership and, most recently, the loss of five key players this summer.

However, the club have only been going in one direction this season, with new boss Ronald Koeman overseeing what has been a stunning start to the 2014-15 season.

The Saints went marching on this week as they beat Stoke City twice in the space of four days to leapfrog champions Manchester City in the table and book themselves a League Cup quarter-final place.

They have now won nine out of their last 10 games in all competitions, with the only blip during this run coming at Tottenham Hotspur, who are managed by the man who preceded Koeman - Mauricio Pochettino.

Some will argue that the Argentine, or even Nigel Adkins before him, got the ball rolling at St Mary's by making the most of the excellent work done by head of football development Les Reed at the Saints academy.

However, Koeman deserves great credit for rapidly rebuilding a ravaged squad, instilling in them a confidence to play attacking football and yet still boast the best defence in the division, all while learning the ropes of English management.

Perhaps his shrewdest move yet was the signing of Graziano Pelle, who has scored nine goals in 12 appearances since following the Dutchman to the South Coast from Feyenoord for £8m.

The Italian frontman netted twice against Stoke on Wednesday, and will lead the line again at the KC Stadium in a side which could show three changes to the Capital One Cup fourth-round victors.

Toby Alderweireld, Ryan Bertrand and Saido Mane should return in place of Florian Gardos, Matt Targett and Shane Long, who opened his Saints account in midweek but is only likely to be on the bench against the club which he left in August after only six months.

Hull are doing fine without the Irishman, and sit 10th in the table following a three-match unbeaten run. They too will be confident considering recent results, as they have held both Arsenal and Liverpool to home draws in their last two outings.

Tigers manager Steve Bruce, though, has a mounting injury list, with Nikica Jelavic, Michael Dawson and Robert Snodgrass long-term absentees alongside goalkeepers Allan McGregor and Steve Harper.

Andrew Robertson faces a late fitness test after missing the trip to Anfield last weekend. Robbie Brady is again on standby to deputise at left wing-back, while Eldin Jakupovic will continue between the sticks.

Saints loanee Gaston Ramirez is ineligible, so Hatem Ben Arfa will play in behind Abel Hernandez. Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore, who have played all but 36 minutes of Hull's top-flight campaign together in midfield, will provide the protection to allow the in-form Mohamed Diame to get forward.

Recent form

Hull: DDWLLD

Southampton: WWWLWW

Possible starting lineups

Hull: Jakupovic; Chester, Bruce, Davies; Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Diame, Brady; Ben Arfa; Hernandez

Southampton: Forster; Clyne, Alderweireld, Fonte, Bertrand; Davis, Schneiderlin, Wanywama; Mane, Tadic, Pelle

Sports Mole says: 1-1

Who will win Saturday's match between Hull and Southampton at the KC Stadium?

Hull
Southampton
Draw
Hull
7.5%
Southampton
70.1%
Draw
22.4%
A stoic-looking Brendan Rodgers ahead of Liverpool's game with Man City on August 25, 2014
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