Claude Puel challenges Southampton to keep pace with West Brom
Claude Puel has admitted that defeat at West Brom could seriously damage Southampton's chances of a top-eight Premier League finish.
Boss Puel has challenged Saints to pull off a result at The Hawthorns to avoid losing any more ground in the league shake-up.
Ninth-placed Saints trail West Brom in eighth by seven points, though hold two games in hand over Tony Pulis' side.
Last term Saints finished sixth to qualify for the Europa League, but the south coast club already trail sixth-placed Manchester United by 17 points with nine games to play.
"It will be important to take points at West Brom, or one point minimum for our ambitions for the end of the season," said Puel, keen for Saints to build on Wednesday's 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.
"The win against Crystal Palace was very important in terms of the result because many teams behind us also took points.
"I was happy yesterday because with all those scenarios the team kept a good spirit and kept going always, and in difficulties they gave a good answer.
"It will be the same against West Brom and with the schedule afterwards too."
Late goals from Maya Yoshida and James Ward-Prowse dragged Saints to Wednesday's tense league win over Palace at St Mary's.
Shane Long missed three fine chances with the hosts finally turning the tie in the last 10 minutes.
Southampton must now face West Brom without the suspended Oriol Romeu, but could also be missing Manolo Gabbiadini, Ryan Bertrand, Steven Davis and Sofiane Boufal.
Romeu will start a two-match ban after collecting 10 bookings, and Davis suffered an ankle problem against Palace.
Bertrand missed the Palace win with a hamstring complaint and Boufal a muscle injury, with Gabbiadini still battling a groin issue, leaving Puel sweating on the state of his squad.
"Romeu is suspended, we will see with Davies if he can play, with his ankle injury yesterday," said Puel.
"And I don't know for example if Gabbiadini can participate with the squad for this game.
"It's difficult for the moment to prepare this game.
"With Bertrand, Davis and Boufal, all these players I don't know about for the moment.
"But it's a good thing of course to have a good result against Crystal Palace and that can give us good confidence."