Manchester City face one of their trickiest-looking remaining Premier League fixtures on Saturday when they visit St Mary’s to take on Southampton. With Manolo Gabbiadini in line for a return, the Saints could provide a tough challenge for Pep Guardiola’s men. To get the lowdown on Southampton, we chatted to Freddie from Southampton fan channel The Ugly Inside.
How have Southampton fared since last facing City in October?
Since October we’ve had a helter-skelter season. We went through a period of winning iconic games notably Europa League and then putting in the worst displays away from home at places like Crystal Palace and Hull City. We were controlling games on possession but were not clinical up front, not putting the ball away and severely lacked a goal scorer due to Charlie Austin’s long term injury. Claude Puel rotated the team pretty much every week up until the final weeks of January making at least 5 changes per match. We’ve also not been helped by the departure of Jose Fonte and another long term injury in Virgil Van Dijk but to be fair to Yoshida and Stephens they’ve done a sterling job since deputising and thankfully we had Manolo Gabbiadini arrive and score 6 goals in his first 4 games. Puel now knows his strongest team and seemingly only making changes now if they are forced through injury and suspensions. We’re now picking up consistency and momentum to finish the season strongly.
Southampton haven’t done particularly well against the top six this season (bar City, of course), what do you think the reason for this is?
We’ve only picked up 2 points from fixtures with the top 6. A point at home to Liverpool and a point at the Etihad. The reality is a probably a combination of the quality of playing staff and tactics. We seem to set up to soak up pressure and hit on the counter against the big teams but tactically Puel does not look like he has a plan B in these big matches. A patient approach has frustrated most of the fans this season but looks like he has turned it around since February and we take the game to the opposition.
Which players should City fear?
We’ve certainly seen an improvement in a number of players recently and looks like we’re finally getting the best of them. Notably James Ward-Prowse has added goals from open play recently and a fantastic technique and delivery in set pieces. Tadic has had his critics and has become an integral part of the squad going forward sitting in the number 10 behind the striker and feeding the balls through. Redmond has been getting in to some great positions, taking on players and has also chipped in recently with a number of goals and nominated for Premier League player of the month for March. Redmond especially is a player that plays with confidence. Forster has also has a fantastic few games batting away pretty much everything and was named in team of the week for his performance at Hawthorns. Finally, if Gabbiadini is fit and returns to the starting eleven his movement and no fear approach to poach on to any balls in the box will be a massive test for your centre backs.
Which City player do you think could do the most damage to Southampton and why?
I think similarly like our attacking midfield, your three Silva, Sterling and De Bruyne are all dangerous. Kevin De Bruyne is a name that sticks out most, topping the assist charts at the moment and seemingly the main man to make it tick. Dangerous from set pieces, deliveries or long shots are something we need to ensure we keep calm and defend well. Of course we can’t count out Aguero either.
City have been linked with a few of Southampton’s defenders (Van Dijk, Cedric and Bertrand), how do you assess the likeliness of any of those three moving to the Etihad in the summer?
Discount Cedric and Bertrand first of all. Both players are happy on the south coast and enjoying their football and settled down with the club and like Van Dijk they are an integral part of our back four. Highly unlikely that Bertrand or Cedric would move to City and seemingly if they do it’ll be for the money. We know Bertrand has a property in London so if anything he’s more likely to move to United. Van Dijk could go anywhere. Pretty much every big club in Europe are after him. Personally I believe we’ve got at least one more season in him. He has bought in to the club, named captain and also likes life in Southampton. In any game he is a game changer, if he were to go I don’t expect him to move for anything less than £50 million. The safety net you could argue that clubs would not want to invest into a player that is currently injured and unlikely to appear before the end of the season.
And finally, what’s your score prediction?
I expect it to be an open game. We’re taking the game to the opposition and finally playing some attractive football. It’ll be a challenge to keep at least one goal out. I’ll take a point in this game and go for 1-1 but would be over the blue moon for three points.