Sunday 30th November – 13:30 – St.Mary’s Stadium
Southampton face their toughest test of the season so far when they welcome defending Premier League champions Manchester City to St Mary’s in the battle between second and third in the league. The South Coast side have been the surprise package in the top flight this season and have been particularly impressive at home, where they have taken 16 points from a possible 18. This the beginning of a tough period for Ronald Koeman’s side though, as Arsenal and Manchester United lie in wait after they’ve played City. Manuel Pellegrini’s side came from behind to beat Swansea City last weekend and will overtake Saints, who drew 1-1 with Aston Villa on Monday evening, if they win at St Mary’s. The two sides are in league action again on Wednesday, but it’s unlikely that any key players will be rested for this enticing clash.
The Key Battle: The Southampton Defence vs Sergio Aguero
The league’s best defence against the division’s top scorer – this is a tantalising encounter that will see whether Ronald Koeman really has his troops at the back organised, or the Argentine is just too hot to handle for anyone.
Aguero has scored 12 times in the Premier League this season so far, more than half of his best total for an entire campaign. If he plays, it will be his 100th Premier League appearance. Only Ruud van Nistelrooy (68) and Alan Shearer (79) have a higher tally of goals in their first 100 appearances than the Argentinian has in his 99 games (64).
However, Southampton have conceded just half of that amount, with their 1-1 draw against Aston Villa containing the first goal they had let in in five matches.
Many predicted that the Saints would flounder this year, especially following the departure of star defender Dejan Lovren.
Yet, Koeman, along with the arrivals of Fraser Forster, Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand, along with the upturn in form of Nathaniel Clyne, have helped the South Coast club to keep seven clean sheets this season.
- Midfielder Steven Davis will be assessed before the match as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.
- Promising youngsters James Ward-Prowse (foot) and Sam Gallagher (knee) are definitely out and are still two or three weeks away from full match fitness.
- Jay Rodriguez continues his rehabilitation from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury which he suffered at the Etihad last season.
- Manuel Pellegrini welcomes back Yaya Toure and Fernandinho to the squad after they were both suspended for the last-gasp victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
- The latter is likely to be partnered with Fernando in the anchor of midfield, allowing Toure to play a more attacking role and support lone striker Sergio Aguero.
- David Silva (knee), Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov (both calf) remain on the sidelines through injury.
Southampton wins = 27 / Manchester City wins = 25 / Draws = 23
Last Meeting: Manchester City 4-1 Southampton
Manchester City turned the screw on their Premier League title rivals by beating Southampton, as they kicked into top gear as the final month of the campaign approached. Yaya Toure’s penalty gave the hosts the lead, though Rickie Lambert equalised with a spot-kick of his own. Goals from Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko in first-half stoppage time, then a late effort from Stevan Jovetic, made it 14 wins from 15 home league games for City this season. There was bad news for watching England boss Roy Hodgson as Saints striker Jay Rodriguez was carried off with a serious knee injury, which ended up ruling him out of the World Cup.
Stat of the Match
In the Premier League this season only Chelsea have won more points away (14) than City (11) from six games.
Where can I watch it?
The game is the first of two live matches that Sky Sports 1 are showing as part of their Super Sunday coverage. Their coverage begins at 12:30pm, with the match starting an hour later. BBC One’s Match of the Day 2 will then show the highlights tomorrow evening at 10:30pm.
My Prediction: Southampton 1-2 Manchester City
Southampton showed signs on Monday night against Aston Villa that there are cracks in their seemingly perfect run of form. Manchester City will provide an incredibly stern test and could well hand them their first home defeat of the season though. It will be close though, and the Saints should get on the score-sheet – City’s defence isn’t watertight. Dusan Tadic to score for the hosts and a Sergio Aguero double to win the match for the visitors.