Southampton travel to Leicester this weekend with a huge score to settle.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team fell to a 9-0 defeat at home to the Foxes in October, the heaviest home defeat in Premier League history, with Jamie Vardy and Ayoze Perez both scoring hat-tricks.
No one is expecting the Saints to level out their goal difference in one afternoon, but they’re in the right sort of form to at least cause their opponents some problems: a run of 10 points from four games has helped lift Hasenhuttl’s men out of the bottom three, and they can still match Saturday’s high-flying opponents when it comes to form across the last six fixtures.
More to the point, though, they have a few examples to look at when it comes to bouncing back from a heavy defeat the next time you face the same opponents.
Crystal Palace v Liverpool, 1989-90 (Yes, we know it wasn’t the Premier League back then)
In September 1989, eight different Liverpool players found the net in the Reds’ biggest ever top-flight win. To let two different players score is unfortunate. Four is careless. Eight? Well, it wasn’t a great day at the office for visitors Crystal Palace, and it was an especially bad one for goalkeeper Perry Suckling.
We’ll do the unsurprising bit first. Liverpool won the return league game 2-0 and went on to lift the title. It was an improvement from the Eagles, but the real revenge mission came later that season.
Palace fans are unlikely to have been delighted to see their club handed a third meeting with Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-finals, and it will have felt like a case of ‘here we go again’.
Howver, in a topsy-turvy second half, Palace led 2-1, trailed 3-2 and forced extra time with an 88th minute Andy Gray equaliser. Then, with both sides contemplating a penalty shoot-out, Alan Pardew popped up with the winner. Thankfully, he didn’t celebrate with a dance.
Palace lost the final to Manchester United after a replay, but at least they got that sweet revenge first.
Manchester United v Southampton, 1996-97
It’s been rare for United to see themselves on this side of the equation, especially in their 90s heyday, but it has happened.
Alex Ferguson’s side were torn apart by Southampton in October 1996, falling to a 6-3 defeat 23 years almost to the day before the south coast club were involved in their latest nine-goal ‘thriller’. Still, it would have been an even bigger shock if United had lost to the same opponents twice that season.
The return fixture was played at Old Trafford in February, with Old Trafford drawing its second-biggest crowd of the season in anticipation of those wrongs being righted. Things hit a snag early on, though, with Egil Østenstad – Southampton’s hero at the Dell earlier in the season – beating Peter Schmeichel once more to give the visitors a 10th-minute lead.
This was Manchester United, though, and they wouldn’t be fooled twice. Gary Pallister equalised within 10 minutes, and Graeme Souness’ visitors couldn’t quite hold on for a point, with Eric Cantona breaking their resolve late on. United went on to win the league with a frankly pathetic 75 points, while Southampton stayed up by the skin of their teeth, as they often seemed to do during that period.
Wigan v Blackpool, 2010-11
A home game against Premier League debutants generally feels like the ideal way to start your season, but the opening day meeting with Blackpool quickly turned into a nightmare for Roberto Martinez’s team. Goals from Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Alex Baptiste and a Marlon Harewood debut double handed the Tangerines a stunning 4-0 away win, and when Wigan lost 6-0 to Chelsea next time out they had redefined ‘rock bottom’.
The result affected the Latics quite significantly, keeping them in the bottom six for all but two weeks of the season. However, as they repeatedly reminded us under Martinez, the bottom six is not the same as the bottom three.
Come April, a defeat in the return fixture with Chelsea left Wigan bottom of the league, but they had their chance for the ultimate act of revenge the following week: victory at Blackpool would lift them out of the bottom three for the first time in two months, while putting Blackpool there in their place.
Sometimes, these games can be extremely tense affairs, but with the ‘attack first, worry about the rest later’ approach of both sides that was never likely. Hugo Rodallega opened the scoring inside three minutes, while it was 2-0 Wigan at the break and 3-0 before 70 minutes. DJ Campbell pulled one back, but it was never likely to be enough.
The remaining five weeks only served to ramp up the drama: with six points separating the bottom nine, five different sides would find themselves in the bottom three during April and May. Ultimately, though, Wigan would pull themselves clear with a win at Stoke on the final day, while Blackpool failed to pull off an unlikely victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford despite leading for five sweet second-half minutes.
Wigan made sure they wouldn’t have a repeat of that drama the following season, securing their safety with an entire game to spare.