AFC Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil thinks his side will take a huge step towards Premier League survival if they beat Southampton on Thursday night.
The cherries they have won four of their last seven games to ease relegation fears. Another win on Thursday would take them to 36 points with five games of the 2022/23 season remaining.
O’Neil said at a press conference: “The closer you get to the end when there are a couple or a few games left, it becomes clear what might be needed and what might not.
“At this point, there are still so many permutations that we are solely focused on trying to win our next game again.
“I’m not sure I can imagine a team being relegated with 36 (points) this season. I think it’s possible, so we’re definitely not going to set 36 as our target, not that we’re going to set a point tally.
“Thirty-six would not be something I aim for in my mind.
“Aiming to leave St Mary’s with 36 hopefully and then we’ll go into the next game and see where we are and that’s the mentality we’ve been on since the start.”
Southampton entered the game following a 3-3 draw with leaders Arsenal, having surrendered two goals clear in the dying minutes at the Emirates Stadium.
Ruben Selles’ side have not won in seven games heading into the decider, but O’Neil feels there is still a lot of fighting left in them.
He said: “They’ve made big improvements since the new manager took over and they’re really not in relegation form since taking charge.
“It’s not like we go to a team that loses every week and has stayed at the bottom of the table because they’re in terrible shape.
“They are putting in some very good performances and getting some good results. If anyone has any doubts, then I can assure them it will be a really tough game for us.”
The fixture at St Mary’s comes four days after a 4-0 home defeat by West Ham and three days before another relegation rival Leeds visits.
O’Neil said: “Obviously it’s a three game week for us, so we may need to freshen things up here and there and move some things around.
“We have two great games in quick succession so we will have to use this great team for that.”
O’Neil is confident midfielder Joe Rothwell will be back on Thursday after being replaced with a minor hamstring strain at half-time against the Hammers.
Midfielder Hamed Traore and loan defender Jack Stephens are both injured.
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