(Reuters) – Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuettl says Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has done an impeccable job in the Premier League this season despite a dip in form in the second half of their campaign.
The two sides meet this Saturday and the Austrian, who took over at Southampton in December, was full of praise for his opposite number who, at 41, became the youngest manager in English football to take charge of his 500th game last weekend.
“(They have) a very young manager with a lot of games in the Premier League, a lot of experience and has done a fantastic job this year,” Hasenhuettl told reporters.
“They had a very, very calm season because they had a fantastic start and immediately took a lot of points.”
Howe, who took Bournemouth from the bottom of League Two (fourth tier) to the top flight, looked set to lead them to a second top-half Premier League finish in four years when the club were eighth after 18 games.
However, a downturn in form, especially on the road where they lost nine in a row, led to a slide to 14th place.
“The second half of the season was not that good but they have never been in trouble really this season,” Hasenhuettl said.
Southampton, who sit six points above the relegation zone with three games to go, could also seal their top-flight status if they get at least a point and 18th-placed Cardiff City lose.
However, Hasenhuettl has a number of injuries to contend with. Influential centre back Jannik Vestergaard is still sidelined while left back Ryan Bertrand is also a doubt after picking up an injury in the 1-1 draw at Watford on Tuesday.
“Jannik is not (fit), that’s for sure,” Hasenhuettl said. “We have another few problems, Ryan Bertrand got a hit on his ankle and is maybe also questionable.
“Matt Targett is back in team training, which is good for us because he’s the substitute for him. Stuart Armstrong has a little bit of a problem with his hamstring.
“Shane (Long) is fit I think, he trained today.”
Southampton end their season with a trip to West Ham next weekend, and a home match against relegated Huddersfield Town on the final day.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Kevin Liffey)