IN MANY ways, Southamp­ton’s April sched­ule makes for grim read­ing, even more so con­sid­er­ing this is the busi­ness end of the sea­son.

The post­pone­ment of Southamp­ton’s March fix­tures against Leices­ter City and Pre­ston North End has inten­si­fied next mon­th’s fix­ture pile-up. 

The St Mary’s side must play eight Cham­pi­onship match­es in just 27 days, includ­ing trips to pro­mo­tion rivals Leices­ter and Ipswich Town.

April also serves as a pre­cur­sor to vis­it­ing Leeds Unit­ed on the final day of the sea­son, May 4, for a poten­tial pro­mo­tion decider.

Rus­sell Mar­t­in’s side are cur­rent­ly six points adrift of the auto­mat­ic pro­mo­tion spots but already have one game in hand on sec­ond-place Leeds.

What has Rus­sell Mar­tin said?

Saints boss Mar­tin is nev­er one to over­ly express his wor­ries or put too much empha­sis on one thing alter­ing this sea­son’s course. ‘It is what it is’ is some­thing you often hear the retired defend­er say.

That atti­tude was seen when he was asked about the prospect of play­ing 10 games in 36 days ahead of Southamp­ton’s 4–2 win over Sun­der­land.

The retired defend­er explained how he will not use fix­ture con­ges­tion as an excuse should his side not bounce back to the Pre­mier League.

He said: “I don’t know if it will be pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive. We won’t know until the end of the sea­son.

“We are in the midst of a real­ly relent­less peri­od and now we have to face anoth­er one from the end of March and April. 

“I don’t know if it will be good or bad but it’s not ide­al that we will look at the league and teams will have played two more games than us.

“It is some­thing we will have to deal with psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly and just ignore it a bit real­ly. We focus on our­selves and that will remain the case.

“I would have loved the game to be on against Pre­ston on Sat­ur­day but we now have had a bit more of a break. Thurs­day felt like our first prop­er train­ing day for a long time.Daily Echo: Saints will have to deal with hectic schedule says Russell MartinSaints will have to deal with hec­tic sched­ule says Rus­sell Mar­tin (Image: PA)

How will Saints cope?

With a game every three days on aver­age, April’s chaot­ic sched­ule will put a strain on Southamp­ton’s pro­mo­tion charge.

It will also lim­it the amount of time they can have on the train­ing pitch, with recov­ery and prepa­ra­tion becom­ing the main focus.

That’s why Mar­tin has wel­comed the extend­ed inter­na­tion­al break as it will give the non-inter­na­tion­als time to work things out at Sta­ple­wood.

Dai­ly Echo colum­nist Fran­ny Benali, who played over 300 games for Saints, believes rota­tion will be key.

He said: “The inter­na­tion­al break will help the play­ers who are not going away with their coun­try pre­pare for the final 10 games.

READ MORE: Benali on the impact of Pre­ston post­pone­ment & Saints Foun­da­tion match­day

“I know that Rus­sell and the coach­ing staff will be dili­gent­ly plan­ning to ensure the play­ers do not get burned out.

“As we have seen through­out the course of the sea­son, play­ers can pick up injuries at any time. If anoth­er key play­er goes down through injury it could be a fac­tor in the results.

“Saints may be forced to rest key play­ers for key games, but in Adam Arm­strong, they have some­one who can play every game. The same goes for Kyle Walk­er-Peters when he returns.”

Daily Echo: Kyle Walker-Peters has played the most minutes of Southampton's outfield playersKyle Walk­er-Peters has played the most min­utes of Southamp­ton’s out­field play­ers (Image: Stu­art Mar­tin)

How do the play­ers feel?

The play­ers have to con­tend with the psy­cho­log­i­cal bat­tle of being two games and sev­er­al points behind their pro­mo­tion rivals Ipswich and Leeds.

Sat­ur­day’s match-win­ner Joe Roth­well falls on the side of want­i­ng to get the games played before look­ing at the table.

He told the Dai­ly Echo: “The break has come at a good time because we have had a mas­sive amount of games in the last month. This is a chance to rest before the last 10 games.

“Dif­fer­ent peo­ple might look at our sit­u­a­tion in dif­fer­ent ways. For me, I’d pre­fer to have the games done rather than catch up on them.”

Daily Echo: Joe Rothwell is looking forward to a break from games ahead of a busy AprilJoe Roth­well is look­ing for­ward to a break from games ahead of a busy April (Image: PA)

Top goalscor­er A Arm­strong insists there is noth­ing to fear about play­ing so many games in such a con­densed time peri­od.

“It’s what this league is all about, we have to look for­ward to it. We have games where we need to give every­thing to get back up.

“There is a lot of qual­i­ty and expe­ri­ence here. It is about sup­port­ing each oth­er and push­ing each oth­er — that is some­thing the squad does.”

Who is avail­able for the run-in?

Southamp­ton cur­rent­ly have four first-team play­ers unavail­able through injury. Juan Lar­ios and Ross Stew­art are high­ly unlike­ly to be avail­able at any point next month.

How­ev­er, Walk­er-Peters and Ryan Fras­er should return soon, bar­ring a set­back in their recov­ery, which will pro­vide a huge boost.

Walk­er-Peters had played every minute in the Cham­pi­onship before his injury and was not risked against Sun­der­land by Mar­tin, who had an eye on April.

Daily Echo: Ryan Fraser was at St Mary's for Southampton's 4-2 win over SunderlandRyan Fras­er was at St Mary’s for Southamp­ton’s 4–2 win over Sun­der­land (Image: Stu­art Mar­tin)

Fras­er is also aim­ing to be back in con­tention for Southamp­ton’s home fix­ture against Mid­dles­brough just after the inter­na­tion­al break. 

In terms of sus­pen­sions, Jan Bednarek is the only play­er close to trig­ger­ing a two-game ban for accu­mu­lat­ing 10 yel­low cards.

Should the Pol­ish inter­na­tion­al avoid a book­ing against Michael Car­rick­’s Boro he can rest eas­i­ly as game­week 37 is the cut-off point for 10-yel­low card sus­pen­sions.

Southamp­ton’s full April sched­ule:

Mon­day, April 1 — Ipswich Town vs Saints.

Sat­ur­day, April 6 — Black­burn Rovers vs Saints.

Tues­day, April 9 — Saints vs Coven­try City.

Sat­ur­day, April 13 — Saints vs Wat­ford.

Tues­day, April 16 — Saints vs Pre­ston North End.

Sat­ur­day, April 20 — Cardiff City vs Saints.

Tues­day, April 23 — Leices­ter City vs Saints.

Sat­ur­day, 27 April — Saints vs Stoke City.