After a crazy night of Europa League action last Thursday at the Liberty, we head to the South coast this Sunday for a 1.30pm kick off against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium. For those travelling Jacks, it’s free food and drink (well, a pie and a pint) in the ground, though 3 points would be better! Rumour has it, Saints heavyweight Matt Le Tissier is getting worried that there won’t be enough left for his personal consumption (though don’t quote me on that)!
This season is the Saints’ 15th in the Premier League and their 37th in the top division of English football. Following relegation in 2005 and time spent in both the Championship and League One, they returned to the top flight in 2012-13. The club is ambitious, with wealthy foreign owners and is looking to push on to the European competitions in coming years.
They are managed by former Espanyol boss Mauricio Pochettino. Pochettino took over the reins rather controversially from Nigel Adkins in January 2013 as Adkins had led the Saints to two successive promotions and was doing a steady job in the Premier League. However, the Argentine has been a success, with the Saints finishing a creditable 14th on their return to the Premier League.
Southampton cleared the decks over the summer, with 15 players departing St Mary’s. In return, they invested heavily on 3 major signings. Croatian centre back Dejan Lovren joined from French side Olympique Lyonnais for a fee reported to be in the region of £8.5 million. This was followed by the arrival of Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama from Scottish club Celtic, having previously been courted by our rivals the Redbirds. Finally after a lengthy transfer saga, Italian international Dani Osvaldo joined the club for £13 million in August from Roma, breaking the club’s transfer record.
They have started this season well and currently lie 6th in the table after 6 games. They have won 3 (West Brom, Crystal Palace and Liverpool), drawn 2 (West Ham and Sunderland) and lost 1 (Norwich). In comparison, we are 13th with 7 points, but have already played Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool. This illustrates that despite having 4 more points than the Swans, we have had the tougher start and it is all about picking up points against the teams in our own “mini leagues” rather than worrying about the big boys.
Southampton, like the Swans like to play football and have some clever players including fans favourite Adam Lallana. Up front, they have some decent firepower in Osvaldo, who opened his Southampton account against Crystal Palace last weekend and England international Rickie Lambert. It’s a case of what you see is what you get with Lambert and our centre halves will need to be tight to him. I was at the game at Saint Mary’s last season and remember a quality performance by young full back Luke Shaw. He has been regularly linked with Chelsea and looks like an England international in the making. Nathaniel Clyne, his fellow full back is also no mug and likes to get up and down the line.
As for the Swans, the number of games we are playing at the moment is “crackers”. It’s only early October and we have already played 6 league games, 6 in the Europa League and 1 in the Capital One Cup. Laudrup has talked about focus and he is spot on as usual, for it is hard to be on the money for every game. We have injury doubts to a number of key players and it is possible that Ashley Williams and Angel Rangel will again be missing. These are major losses for us, through replacements Amat and Tiendalli need to step up and show they are worthy of a place in the team. Tiendalli, in particular has a bit of work to do to live up to his performances of last season. Pablo Hernandez has returned to training and it would be great to see him involved on Sunday as he looked strong in pre-season and we could do with another option out wide.
Nathan Dyer will be looking forward to this game. As a former Southampton trainee, he doesn’t tend to celebrate if he scores against his old club, but Nathan you know you are a born again Jack so stick one in for us, like last season! I recall last years’ game well, with Nathan Dyer coming on as a substitute and rescuing a point for the Swans against the run of play, right in front of us travelling fans. Another one this year will do very nicely, Nathan!
Finally, it was good to see young Daniel Alfei make the bench last Saturday against Arsenal. Obviously, his place was due to injuries to Ash, Angel and Gary Monk, however Ben Davies showed last season that if you get a chance, then you need to take it as the next one might be a long time coming. Good luck Dan.
Swansea City: Michel Vorm will once again be in goals for the Swans, with Tiendalli, Davies, Chico and Amat in front of him in defence, unless Rangel or Williams recover. A central midfield of Canas, Shelvey, and Michu is likely, with Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer probably occupying the wide positions. Wilfried Bony will be the lone striker. Michu picked up a nasty head injury on Thursday, so fingers crossed he will be fit to play. The bench will include: Tremmel, Taylor, Britton, Pozeulo, De Guzman, Vazquez and possibly Hernandez.
Southampton: Artur Boruc in goals, with Clyne, Shaw, Lovren and Fonte in front of him. In midfield are likely to be Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Davis, Lallana, with Osvaldo and Lambert up front. The substitutes will include veteran keeper Kelvin Davis, Cork (son of Alan Cork, former Swans’ Manager and Wimbledon “hoofer), Chambers, Ward-Prowse, Ramirez and Rodriguez.
The match day referee is Mike Dean, though after the Portugese gentleman on Thursday, I don’t feel as worried as usual on seeing Mr Dean’s name as the official.
And finally, despite trying to keep my identity a secret, a number of Jacks have asked me to include score predictions in these previews. I’m no expert when it comes to the bookies, but I’m going for a repeat of last year’s game, which ended 1-1. Don’t risk your life savings on it though!