Billed in some quarters as a relegation tussle, with the loser seemingly mired in a scrap between now and the end of the season.
As I've posted previously, January could be a very big month in terms of our aspirations for the remainder of the season and a win over a side in flux would be a welcome start to the month.
Neither side approach this game with much form, with Portsmouth on a run of four successive defeats whilst we have posted only one win in six. Recent form should be on our side as we of course defeated Portsmouth 6-0 earlier this season, yet Fratton Park has not yielded much return previously with only one win in six attempts.
Whilst we have struggled to get players in during the transfer window so far, Portsmouth have the opposite problem and have seen key players Lassana Diarra and Jermain Defoe depart Fratton Park.
Team wise, we could once again be under strength with Stephen Irleand (suspension) likely joined on the sidelines by Shaun Wright-Phillips (hamstring) and Robinho (thigh). As witnessed last week, these absences could be critical in terms of our hopes of coming away with all three points. Wayne Bridge, however, will be line to make his debut.
It will be a difficult taks ahead but it could well be a nervy Portsmouth side we come up against. I'd like to see Hughes approach the game with a confident approach (even if we are shorn of our main attacking threats) as opposed to trying to keep the game tight and steal a win.
Fratton Park is never an easy place to go to with a real atmosphere usually generated, but I'm confident that we can come away with a victory and will go for a 2-0 win.
Some quick notes:
- We have drawn four and lost four of the last eight away league games since our only Premier League victory on the road this season; 0-3 against Sunderland on 31 August.
- The value of a clean sheet is highlighted by the fact that we are one of three clubs holding a 100% Premier League record from matches in which clean sheets have been kept; won five of five.
- Our current tally of 22 points after 20 games is their worst return for five years.