After less than nine months in charge, Premier League strugglers Southampton parted company with manager Mauricio Pellegrino on Monday evening.
Saints are one place and one point above the relegation zone following one league win in 17 matches and have now begun the search for the Argentinian’s replacement.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at potential candidates who could be tasked with keeping the club in the top flight.
An early favourite for the job, Silva made his mark in the Premier League when he arrived in January 2017 and earned plenty of plaudits for his ultimately fruitless attempts to keep Hull in the top flight. The Portuguese was snapped up by Watford last summer and he continued to enhance his reputation at Vicarage Road before having his head turned by Everton, who were looking for a replacement for Ronald Koeman. A poor run of results followed and Watford sacked Silva in January, blaming Everton’s approach as the “catalyst for the decision.” Could Silva be tempted by another rescue mission at St Mary’s?
Among the bookmakers’ favourites, Hughes has been out of work since his sacking at Stoke in January. He is a former Saints player, making 52 appearances and scoring two goals for the club between 1998 and 2000. The Welshman helped Stoke to three consecutive ninth-place Premier League finishes in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 before progress stalled. His time with the Potters ended following an FA Cup defeat to Sky Bet League Two Coventry and on the back of five defeats in seven Premier League matches – a record which could count against him given Southampton’s current predicament.
Southampton are not scared of making a left-field appointment, so Shakhtar Donetsk coach Fonseca cannot be ruled out. The 45-year-old has spoken of his admiration for the Premier League and is believed to have been interviewed by Everton before Sam Allardyce was appointed. Fonseca, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has a win percentage of just over 78% since taking charge of Shakhtar in 2016, leading the Ukrainian club to Premier League, Ukrainian Cup and Super Cup glory in that time. He is also a character, making good on a promise to dress as Zorro to a press conference if his side were to qualify from a Champions League group containing Manchester City and Napoli.
Highly-rated Potter was the last English manager standing in European club competition this season, with Swedish minnows Ostersund going out to Arsenal in the Europa League round of 32. However, a 3-0 home defeat was followed by a stunning 2-1 win at the Emirates, and the former York defender has worked wonders at the club. Potter would be a brave choice but the 42-year-old’s record in Sweden stands up against some of the very best in the business. Since taking charge in 2011, Potter has taken Ostersund from the fourth tier to the Swedish top flight.
The Croatian was sacked by West Ham in November 2017 following a poor run of results which culminated in a 4-1 loss at home to Liverpool. However, his first season with the Hammers brought a top-seven finish and with it Europa League qualification. Their European adventure did not last long, however, as they were knocked out by Romanian side FC Astra Giurgiu in the qualifying rounds. They finished mid-table the following season and were in trouble when he left the club. Is he somebody Southampton could take a gamble on?
Pep Guardiola tried to play down growing excitement among Manchester City supporters over the possibility of winning the Premier League title when they face bitter rivals United in the derby early next month.
Jose Mourinho’s side visit the Etihad Stadium on April 7 for a game which could see City make mathematically certain of being crowned champions following their 2-0 victory at Stoke on Monday.
First, City must win their visit to mid-table Everton but, should they do so, Guardiola will win his first league title in English football with victory over his old rival Mourinho at the Etihad.
“Everybody is always asking this question,” said Guardiola. “But the important thing is on March 12, we have 81 points, that is a lot of points.
“We want to be champions. We need three wins, but we are able to do it with two (if City beat United).
“But before and after United, we have the (Champions League) quarter-finals, and at the moment that is the most important thing to focus on.
“I understand for the fans, okay, but the important thing is to be champions. When and where it doesn’t matter.”
The in-form English team are also in with a strong chance of winning Europe’s premier prize for the first time in their history.
The draw for the Champions League last eight takes place on Friday and Guardiola will watch it live, along with his first-team squad, at their warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi, where City flew immediately following the Stoke win.
City’s shock exit from the FA Cup, at the hands of third-tier Wigan, leaves them without a game until the clash with Everton on the final day of the month.
“We are going to be together and make three training sessions in five days,” said the City manager.
“We are going to have lunch together, dinner, some people are playing golf. But the weather conditions are better than here – the forecast in Manchester is rain, rain, rain!
“So we are going to go there and do the training we should be doing here. Last season we were there and it was good and that’s why we’re going to the airport now.”
City’s victory at Stoke came courtesy of two goals from David Silva, whose season has been disrupted because of a family crisis, following the premature birth of his son Mateo in December.
The City forward has been returning to Spain frequently to visit his family and admitted after his superb performance against Stoke that football has been a welcome relief.
“I think when I play football I forget everything, it’s good for me to play,” he said.
“I know in my private life it is not a very happy moment. But my son is fighting, you know, and I am very happy because he is getting stronger, getting better, so it is okay.”
City captain Vincent Kompany offered support to Silva, who has been given permission to miss the Abu Dhabi trip to spend time in Spain.
“David just explained his story, it puts everything into perspective for us,” said the defender.
“It is a massive boost and relief to be able to play this game like we do. It gives us perspective and brings a moment of joy into our lives.”
City, meanwhile, can look forward to a memorable finale to the season given their current form and dominance over the Premier League although their demanding manager is clearly not in the mood to allow his players to relax.
“To motivate my players is really easy, we are not champions yet, and when we are, we must carry on, to focus on the next goals which is the Champions League quarter-finals,” said Guardiola.
“There are always goals to pursue, statistics to overcome, and we will carry on and then work towards next season. There is always room for improvement and that is what we will do.”
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany admits the chance to clinch the Premier League title against rivals Manchester United is a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
David Silva struck twice in a sublime performance as the league leaders recorded a straightforward 2-0 win against Stoke at the Bet365 Stadium.
The Spain midfielder expertly converted Raheem Sterling’s 10th-minute cross before getting on the end of Gabriel Jesus’ lofted pass to make it 2-0 early in the second half.
City, who restored their 16-point lead at the top of the table, remain on course to claim the title as early as April 7 after their game with rivals Manchester United.
Kompany knows work has to be done in their next Premier League game against Everton if they are to get that chance, but he told Sky Sports Premier League: “Everybody in the blue side of Manchester knows it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. But (we have to be) steady.
“We have one game before then which will be difficult and then we will see. It is not going to be handed to us.”
Silva took his goal tally for the season to nine despite having missed some games over the past three months following the premature birth of his son.
The 32-year-old told Sky Sports Premier League: “When I play football I forget everything. It’s good for me to play. In my private life now it is a very hard moment but my son is fighting. I’m very happy because he is getting stronger.”
Blues boss Pep Guardiola typically downplayed the derby-day title possibility.
“Everybody has asked me about it but the important thing is that on March 12 we have 81 points,” he said.
“We want to be champions and to do that we need to win two or three games.”
Stoke manager Paul Lambert was keen to take positives from a game in which his side could have lost more heavily were it not for some resolute defending.
“They’re a top side, there’s no two ways about it,” he said.
“Their movement, their speed, the way they make the pitch really big when they have the ball and really small when they don’t.
“Sometimes you have to hold your hands up – that’s why they’re going to win the league and are in the race to win the Champions League.
“I’m delighted we didn’t capitulate and kept our spirit there.”