Ask the Opposition

Ask the Opposition 24 – Southampton

Nestled between two of the biggest games in City’s history is another important fixture, as the race to consolidate a top four spot continues against Southampton. The Saints have lost just one of their last seven league games, and Pellegrini has much to think about when rotating his side before the Blues head to Madrid. To get the latest on the Saints, we invited Southampton fan Connor Armstrong on to the site.

Hi Connor, thanks for coming on. What have you made of Southampton’s season? I think it’s important to remember that you were in free fall last November/December.

Yeah, that’s a fair point to consider.

Overall, I think it’s turned out to be the epitome of an ‘almost’ season.

Southampton almost made the Europa League groups, got turfed out of the Capital One Cup in humiliating fashion by Liverpool, got eliminated from the FA Cup by Crystal Palace (for the second season in a row) and are falling just short of European qualification.

Saints started the season slowly and have been playing catch-up since. Things seemed to be coming together nicely before a dreadful run in the back end of 2015.

Southampton are third in the form table since Christmas, with Fraser Forster’s return proving vital, but it looks like being too little too late.

Failing to see off a depleted Everton side a fortnight ago was, in my mind, a massive blow to any chances of competing in the Europa League next season.

We’re now concluding Ronald Koeman’s second season in charge. What are the hopes and aspirations at Southampton for next season?

It’s got to be European qualification.

I’ve heard plenty from the manager stressing the importance of regular European qualification, and that’s something that was echoed to me in interviews with José Fonte and Ryan Bertrand during the week.

For the club to move to the next level, they need to be perceived as European regulars.

I believe that Saints are now recognised as a top-half side, but it’s all about trying to build a reputation for being a side that will pick up a Europa League spot at minimum.

Those within the club: players, coaches and directors alike, believe that Champions League isn’t beyond their reach. But, to start with, they really need to nail down regular Europa League qualification.

What have you made of City’s Champions League run? Do you think we can go all the way?

Absolutely.

I think the big plus point from the first leg against Real Madrid was that you didn’t allow them an away goal.

I do have some fears that you may regret not scoring against Madrid while Ronaldo was out of the picture and Benzema limped off, but I suppose we’ll see.

In terms of ‘narrative’, a Bayern Munich vs Manchester City final would be brilliant.

One City player you’d take at Southampton?

We really need a clinical finisher who can guarantee us 20 goals a season. Those players are so hard to secure.

If I could take just one player, it’d have to be Sergio Agüero for the reasons above. He really is a phenomenal striker and a brilliant footballer.

Score-line prediction?

Saints really need a win here, as anything but three wins in these final three games will hammer the final nail into any European dreams. Saints have a good record against ‘the big boys’ this season, with wins against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and United.

Despite that, I can see it being a 1-1 draw.

However, I think a lot of it will come down to what team Manuel Pellegrini puts out. Saints could eek out another big win.

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