Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been dealt a major injury blow ahead of his team’s trip to Saints, with winger Craig Noone being ruled out for the rest of the season.
The former Brighton player, who joined the Welsh club last summer, sustained an abdominal injury in last Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat against Crystal Palace and has flown to the USA for treatment.
The form of Noone has represented one of very few bright spots for Cardiff in a miserable season, and his absence makes their already-slim hopes of avoiding relegation all the more improbable.
“I doubt we will see him back this season,” said Solskjaer, whose team possess the worst away record in England’s top four divisions, having won just once on the road this season and picked up only seven points in the process.
“He is a player who makes things happen for us and he has been terrific, but we will have to do without him over these next few weeks.”
Solskjaer should at least be able to call upon Chilean midfielder Gary Medel, after he recovered from a virus in time to feature at St Mary’s.
But Cardiff also have major doubts over ex-Saints striker Kenwyne Jones, as well as defenders Mark Hudson and Ben Turner, and midfielder Declan John.
Craig Bellamy is also a slight concern, but should be fit to play.
The situation for Cardiff is undoubtedly bleak, heading into their final five matches of the season.
The club are second-from-bottom and six points adrift of safety.
After Saints, they face Stoke at home, travel to Sunderland and Newcastle, then finish the campaign by welcoming Chelsea to the Cardiff City Stadium.
Solskjaer is continuing to insist that he believes they will escape relegation, but few people will be betting on that outcome.
“I am confident we can pull this off,” he said. “Everybody has been hurt and I am not immune to that, but we have a job to do, and the team I send out against Southampton, the whole group, will believe we can win that match and, over the last five fixtures, earn the points we need.”
The former Manchester United striker added: “For the first time, I have lost a bit of sleep. I’ve been up at 4am working out how to galvanise everybody – players and staff.
“Sir Alex Ferguson rang me a couple of weeks ago and asked how things were going. I said I had not lost a minute’s sleep, but there have been a couple of bad nights this week.
“We were poor against Palace, but I believe we can avoid relegation.
“We need a win at Southampton, and we believe we can achieve that.”